EirGrid to get €100m for interconnector

A €100 million cash grant from the EU to help build electricity connectors between Ireland and Britain has been earmarked for the State-owned firm EirGrid.

But a private company, Imera, with plans to build three interconnectors, says it wants 75% of the funding.

The money is part of a stimulus package announced yesterday by the European Commission that proposes to spend €5 billion on new investment in energy and internet broadband over the next two years to help the union’s economies recover.

As well as the contribution toward the interconnectors, there is a further €150m towards the plan to link up electricity generated from wind energy between five countries — Ireland, Denmark, Britain, Netherlands and Germany.

Ireland also hopes to claim a share of €1bn for investment in broadband that is specifically aimed at ensuring rural areas are fully networked to the highest possible standards to encourage job creation.

But the funding for an interconnector to allow electricity to flow between Ireland and Britain in both directions looks like being contentious.

EirGrid says the money is for its project between Woodland in Meath and Deeside in Wales. It is awaiting planning permission for the project that is expected to cost up to €500m and be in use by 2012.

EirGrid chief executive Bermot Byrne said: “This announcement by the EU will facilitate the early delivery of the EirGrid East West interconnector”.

Energy Minister Eamon Ryan made it clear the money was intended for EirGrid, saying he had worked intensively in Brussels over the last six weeks for the funding for the company.

However Imera’s chief executive Rory O’Neill said he was surprised Mr Ryan did not refer to their projects and will seek clarification when they meet him on Friday. He said he will point out to him that under EU law there can be no discrimination between public and private sectors.

“Imera is developing three interconnectors between Ireland and the UK and France where EirGrid is developing one interconnector. Imera is entitled to 75% of this funding and will be applying for this,” he said.

A Norwegian company, Imera is in discussions with the IDA on establishing an operation to produce the special cables needed for these kind of under sea interconnections.

Mr O’Neill added that in December the EU’s Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs said the Imera Ireland-Wales inerconnector would ensure essential competition with EirGrid.

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