Hitch for interconnection with Wales

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The Irish government has approved Eirgrid's EUR 600 million investment in its proposed 500 MW interconnector linking Ireland and Wales. Ireland's transmission system operator has awarded the construction contract for the 260 kilometre high-voltage, direct current cable to ABB of Sweden. The additional interconnection with the UK, to run from Woodland in Meath to Deeside in north Wales, is essential to help the Irish system cope with the increased volumes of wind energy that are poised to connect to the network over the coming years. The Irish government expects the EU to contribute EUR 110 million towards the cost of the project from energy and infrastructure funds under the European economic recovery plan. The project, however, is still awaiting consent from Ireland's planning board. An Bord Pleanala. A spanner may have been thrown in the works by Eirgrid rival Imera, which also bid to supply the interconnector. It has asked for a competition authority investigation into how the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) came to choose Eirgrid's bid as the winner. "We are questioning the transparency of the process around the tender," says Grace Samodal, from Imera. The company disputes the EUR 600 million cost of the Eirgrid project, claiming that the first of its own two planned Ireland-Wales interconnectors would cost only EUR 200 million. Imera is also pushing for a share of the EUR 110 million EU funds. "We have written to the CER and the appropriate ministers in both Ireland and the UK, and the competition authority asking them to look into the allocation of funds. We are also engaging in discussions with Brussels on how the funding is being distributed," says Samodal.

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