This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which paved the way for a memorandum of understanding between both Governments establishing a single energy market on the island. This MoU led to the introduction of the Single Electricity Market (SEM) in 2007 and an ultimately fruitless exploration of Common Arrangements for Gas (CAG) in the early part of the last decade. In the early days of SEM, the North South electricity Interconnector was identified as a critical piece of infrastructure that was necessary to ensure that all the benefits and efficiencies of an all-island market could be realised. Now, almost 20 years later following the publication last week of a fifth (and final?) expert study group report on undergrounding of the line, the project is ready to begin construction, and all going well is slated for a 2026 energisation date.
However, given the level of the political objections both North and South of the border, construction is unlikely to run smoothly. It will need strong cross-party support from the Government parties to counter the significant objections from both within the Government and amongst the opposition parties. The most recent expert study concludes that an AC overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.