A massive cross-border electricity highway will be delayed until 2019 at the earliest in spite of growing warnings that the North could face serious energy shortages.
The north-south electricity project, which will cut a swathe through South Tyrone, has been the subject of a five year long battle by local residents.
Conservationists, sporting organisations and local residents have attacked proposals to build the 25-mile power line with 102 pylons from Moy to the border in Co Armagh.
The interconnector has already been the subject of a public enquiry and its proposal led to the formation of local lobby group SEAT (Safe Electricity for Armagh and Tyrone), who have demanded that the power lines be laid underground amid health fears.
The link was meant to be ready by 2017, but the earliest possible date has now been revealed as 2019,
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has expressed concerns that the delay, which might last until 2021, could lead to power cuts because of other shortfalls in the generation of electricity.
The details are contained in its latest report on the state of infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland electricity system currently has spare capacity of 600 megawatts (MW).
But by the end of 2015 that will fall to 200 MW.
The organisation that runs the grid (SONI) consider this is not enough to guarantee security of supply if there was a prolonged fault at a power station.
The main issue is that EU pollution rules means that part of Ballylumford power station will have to be shut down.
The undersea Moyle interconnector, which has suffered a series of faults is also a factor.
However, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has previously said she does not believe there will be an energy shortfall.
Speaking at Stormont she said: “We will have the capacity in place by 2016.
“If the market doesn’t come up with the solution, I have always the power to intervene as a government myself. So we can intervene as a department and set up generation.”
The public inquiry opened in 2012, but was adjourned for a consultation after a new application was received from NIE last year.
A spokeswoman for the DoE said last night: “The consultation process is almost complete and the department hopes to be in a position in the near future to ask the Planning Appeals Commission to reconvene the public inquiry.”