Power Outages Spur Examination of Burying Lines

RETA ice storm damage image 2Power lines downed by ice storms, snow storms and high winds left hundreds of thousands of households and businesses without power in eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Parts of New Brunswick are still without power 2 weeks following the storm. Local governments affected by these most-recent storms want to know why their power lines aren’t being buried to avoid these hazardous and costly power outages.

In the aftermath of the storms that knocked out power to about 300,000 households in the Toronto area alone, Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc has suggested that Council needs to examine burying its power lines over a number of years and based on a sound plan (Toronto Star). He says the cost of storms like this most recent one need to be part of the cost/benefit analysis of burying hydro lines. Mihevc writes in the Star, “If the Ontario Energy Board has a concern with altering the cost/benefit calculation for burying wires, and providing the financial resources necessary to do the work, then the province needs to direct the OEB to a different policy. The work can be done over a 20-year period as streets get reconstructed. We have lost approximately 20 per cent of the city’s tree canopy. Burying hydro infrastructure would also better protect our urban forest.”

RETA dollar sign image (smaller)RETA applauds forward-thinking politicians like Joe Mihevc who challenge the power transmission and distribution industry mantra that it is just too expensive to bury power lines. Industry consistently fearmongers by erroneously suggesting that it costs 4 to 7 times as much to bury transmission and distribution lines as it does to build overhead. This is simply not so. Based on discussions with experts in successfully burying high voltage transmission lines all over the world, RETA learned several years ago that the electricity transmission industry, particularly in North America, has been hoodwinking the public and governments with this type of inaccurate information.

Undergrounding experts have told us that the capital cost of burying high voltage power lines can be as little as 15% higher than the cost of building overhead. When you add in the much higher costs of maintenance and transmission loss for above-ground lines over the life of a line, buried lines can actually be cheaper than overhead lines.

For the facts on the many benefits of burying power lines – financial/economic, environmental, health, safety, property value, aesthetic – see this link.

~ by RETA on January 3, 2014.

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