A coalition of business leaders in Northern Ireland has voiced support for the North South Interconnector ahead of the resumption of a public inquiry into the controversial electricity project.
The NI Chamber, CBI NI, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses, Centre for Competitiveness, and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association are among those backing the stalled £200 million-plus scheme.
While advocates claim the link between the electricity grids on both sides of the border is vital for the island’s energy market, opponents insist it will have negative environmental and health impacts.
Planning permission for the southern section through counties Meath, Cavan and Monaghan has been approved, though that decision is set to face a number of legal challenges.
The planning decision on the section through counties Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland will only be made at the conclusion of the public inquiry, which resumes hearings in Armagh on Wednesday.
In total, the interconnector would involve 85 miles of overhead lines and pylons.
Kirsty McManus, from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the project was significant for Northern Ireland businesses.
“Businesses and employers need access to electricity in the most cost efficient manner possible, and the proposed interconnector is key to achieving this,” she said.
“It is an essential piece of infrastructure which will allow the all-island electricity market to do what it was designed to do - achieve savings for all consumers north and south.”
SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) is overseeing the northern half of the project.
Robin McCormick, general manager of SONI, said: “The North South Interconnector is without doubt the single most important infrastructure project on the island today.
“It is urgently required and will reduce costs for consumers north and south, by allowing the single electricity market to work as efficiently as possible, which is particularly good news for business.
“The public inquiry is an opportunity for everyone with an interest in the project to participate in an independent planning process and we are pleased that this project, so critical to the Northern Ireland economy, has reached this stage.”