Despite local opposition, the controversial North-South Interconnector should proceed as an overhead project on pylons, according to two independent reports which went before Cabinet today.
The pylon project, planned to run 135km from Meath to Tyrone, has seen huge local opposition in parts of Cavan, Meath and Monaghan for a number of years.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten brought the two independent reports to Cabinet this morning where there was a detailed discussion on their findings.
The first report addressed the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the link while the second report considered approaches to compensation of property owners in proximity to high-voltage lines.
"The first report has concluded that from a techno-economic point of view, an Alternating Current Overhead Line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland," a statement from Minister Naughten said.
"In terms of comparative international practice to compensation, the second Report indicates that Ireland has a comparatively generous compensation regime in place."
The two reports, which have been published on the Department's website this evening, have been welcomed by EirGrid.
In statement issued today, the company said: "An International Expert Commission examined the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the interconnector; the findings support EirGrid's approach to the project, confirming that an overhead line is the best technical solution and the most cost efficient for consumers."
"A separate study examined how compensation is provided to property owners in the vicinity of new transmission infrastructure in a range of countries. It concluded that there is no scientific basis for a claim that transmission lines cause health problems. It also states that there is limited evidence from numerous analyses of sales prices that transmission lines depress the value of the land over which they pass."
EirGrid Group Chief Executive Mark Foley said it was reassuring that the commission endorsed the overhead line solution that has received planning approval in Ireland and Northern Ireland: "We have considered all possible options regarding the delivery of the interconnector and are encouraged that the panel has concluded that an overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland."
The North South Interconnector is a €286m investment that will connect the electricity grids of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The 400 kilovolt line will run through counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath in Ireland, and Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland.
EirGrid has said the interconnector will underpin the efficient operation of the all-island electricity market, fixing a bottle-neck that cost millions of euro every year and applying downward pressure on electricity prices.
The EirGrid statement said that the study finds that the cost of both the overhead line and underground cable solutions has increased. However the underground solution is more expensive. According to this latest government report, the cost difference is €450m.
Mr Foley added: "The only feasible way to underground such a circuit is to use specialised technology with expensive conversion equipment at each end. Although the study acknowledges there have been developments in this area, in our view it represents unacceptable technical risk and hundreds of millions of euros of extra costs."
"This is a critical piece of infrastructure for the island, which we are committed to delivering; and while we work through legal challenges in both jurisdictions, we will continue our engagement with landowners and the community."