Construction work on the €1.6 billion electricity interconnector between Ireland and France is expected to commence within months and will help deliver greater energy security and lower prices to Irish consumers, EirGrid CEO Mark Foley has said.
Mr Foley said he expected construction to start “very, very shortly” on the 575km Celtic Interconnector which, coming ashore at Youghal in east Cork, will link Ireland with Brittany and allow Irish electricity producers to sell into the French market and buy from French suppliers.
“The Celtic Interconnector is the signature project in the Irish State in this decade and is a flagship project in terms of European connectivity and we will be breaking ground in the project very, very shortly and we are on track to have it producing electricity by 2026,” he said.
Speaking in Cork at the official opening of Eirgrid’s first office outside of Dublin, Mr Foley said the Celtic Interconnector was hugely important as it will help increase energy security in line with European Union policy of increasing interconnectivity across Europe.
“Interconnection is hugely important as it will improve security – we saw the precarious nature of energy security last year with the egregious actions of Russia, but the more Europe gets connected up, then the more countries can bail each other out at times of difficulty.
“It will improve security, it will allow more renewables to pass back and forth between the two countries and it will also help reduce prices because every time there is a shortage, prices tend to go up but if you get more and more interconnection, it helps keep the price stable.”
Mr Foley said the project, in partnership with French utility company RTE, has been through the planning process and has secured funding; with the final agreements being signed last November in Paris by then taoiseach Micheál Martin, he sees the project proceeding at pace.
“The Celtic Interconnector will run from Brittany around Cornwall and come out of the sea at Youghal and then come along the N25 up to Midleton – the roads will have to be dug up and restored very quickly into a converter station at Ballyadam between Midleton and Carrigtwohill,” he said.
“At Ballyadam, we will convert the electricity from DC electricity, which is brilliant for transporting but not for use in our homes, so we will have to convert it back to AC to take it to the ESB substation at Knockraha and then it’s distributed around the country.”
Mr Foley said that the project will take about 2½ years to complete, with electricity flowing through the Celtic Interconnector on a test basis in 2026 for a couple of months before the system becomes fully operational.
He said that with Ireland aiming to produce 80 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030, of which 90 per cent will come from wind power, it is predicted Ireland will be exporting more energy than it imports through the interconnector, which will allow 700 megawatts to move between the two countries.
“We expect, looking at weather, that 65 per cent of the flows will be Ireland to France and 35 per cent will be France to Ireland. We are delighted with that because it means the developers behind the emerging offshore wind sector here will have a way of getting their product to market and sell it in France.
“Very soon, you are going to see the start of construction – think of the connector as a large industrial building in Brittany, another one in east Cork and then 575 kilometres of a cable which will be laid by a ship and then jointed in the sea and put down on the seabed,” said Mr Foley.
“We expect works will start on the converter stations both here and in Brittany in June with what we call enabling works – all the equipment has been ordered so there will be digging and checking out the sites so you will be able to see the physical manifestation up around the site in Ballyadam.”
It was revealed at the signing ceremony last November in Paris by then taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and French energy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher that the project will allow for the import and export of enough electricity to power 450,000 homes.
Cork East Fine Gael TD David Stanton said: “If we get our offshore wind in place, and bring the electricity ashore from there, we’ll be able to export that electricity using this particular grid and sell it on... Cork could become the Saudi Arabia of Europe in respect of energy and power.”