Contrary to high-profile criticism of the Irish planning system, energy projects in the 'strategic infrastructure' process have a success rate of almost 100%. The strategic infrastructure planning process is a fast-track process that provides for applications for certain energy developments to be made directly to the Planning Board. It is entering its fifth year of operation and although it has its critics, the evidence is that it has delivered good results in the energy sector.
With the exception of two waste-to-energy plants, which were refused permission, the other energy applications described in the table below, which are located all over Ireland, have been successful. The average time for those decisions by the board was 40 weeks from submission of the application.
By contrast, renewable projects in the ordinary planning process are not doing as well, for a variety of reasons. The 2010 Planning Act will bring more wind farms into the strategic infrastructure process through its reduction of the entry thresholds. While the strategic infrastructure process can have more upfront cost, the saving in time may compensate for this.
Two of the energy projects listed in the table below have been judicially reviewed. Thanks to the speed of the Commercial Court, the first judicial review was completed within 11 months; the second judicial review was completed within seven months.
The principal issue for government now is to streamline the other energy permitting processes, such as foreshore permitting, so that the timeframes generally achieved by the board can be replicated. The government's legislative programme promises the publication of a Planning and Development (Foreshore) Bill in 2012 to integrate the foreshore consent process with the existing on-land planning system. This could be a mixed blessing, and the draft bill is awaited with interest.
Whether the past performance of strategic energy sector projects is any guarantee of the future also remains to be seen. The approach of the developer and its team in an individual project is often the key to success. More innovative projects involving storage or shale gas extraction may meet challenges. However, to date, the evidence is that the right project in the right place, at the right time, when backed by the appropriate analysis, will be granted permission.
|Quinn Group||Natural-gas fired combined-cycle gas turbine power station: output 450 megawatts (MW)||September 17 2007||May 28 2008||
|Shannon LNG||liquefied natural gas (LNG)receiving terminal||September 24 2007||March 31 2008||Granted|
|Hibernian Wind Power Limited||110 Kilovolt (kV) line and 110kV substation, Leitrim||December 7 2007||June 17 2008||Granted|
|Energy Answers||Waste-to-energy: 365,000 tonnes of waste a year||May 29 2008||February 6 2009||Refused|
|Bord Gaís||Downstream gas pipeline, Curraleigh, Co Tipperary||June 17 2008||December 16 2008||Granted|
|Shannon LNG gas pipeline||Pipeline from LNG terminal to network||August 14 2008||February 17 2009||Granted|
|Eirgrid||East-West Interconnector||November 18 2008||September 14 2009||Granted|
|Indaver||Waste-to-energy facility and transfer station, Cork||November 28 2008||June 9 2011||Refused|
|Eirgrid||110kV line, switching station and 38kV station, Donegal||December 3 2008||October 27 2009||
(Inspector: part refused)
|ESB Networks||Upgrade of 38kV substation and new 110kV line from Lenabower to Screeb Substation, Co Galway||January 8 2009||December 21 2009||Granted|
|Shell E&P Limited||Corrib onshore upstream gas pipeline||February 12 2009||January 19 2011||Granted|
|Lumcloon Energy Limited||350MW gas-fired electricity generating station, Ferbane, Co Offaly||August 26 2009||March 12 2010||Granted|
|Endesa||430MW natural gas-fired, combined-cycle turbine, Great Island||December 3 2009||July 29 2010||Granted|
|Eirgrid||110kV overhead line, Oranmore, Co Galway||December 16 2009||April 14 2010||Granted|
|Endesa||450MW natural gas-fired, combined-cycle turbine, Tarbert||December 17 2009||December 6 2010||Granted|
|Eirgrid Meath – Tyrone||400kV interconnector||December 18 2009||June 29 2010||Withdrawn|
|PSE Kinsale Energy Limited||Kinsale Energy Ballycotton Gas Storage Project||February 16 2010||August 30 2011||Withdrawn|
|EirGrid||Development of a new 220/110kV substation, Kerry||April 5 2011||September 26 2011||Approved with conditions|
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