The Feasibility of Placing Electric Distribution Facilities Underground

Dec. 2, 2010
In the aftermath of storms that cause multi-day or week loss of electric service, there arises a cry commonly wrapped in vitriol, to put the distribution system underground. This is a detailed look at the feasibility and costs of doing so. The impact on ratepayers is so great that no regulator would have the temerity to give John Q. Public what he professes to want.Read more...

In early December 2002, a major ice storm blanketed much of North Carolina with up to one inch of ice, causing an unprecedented power outage to approximately two million electric utility customers. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the public expressed considerable interest in burying all overhead power lines in the state.

The Public Staff responded by investigating the desirability and feasibility of converting the existing overhead lines of the state’s three investor-owned electric utilities – Duke Power, Progress Energy Carolinas, and Dominion North Carolina Power – to underground. Since the majority of the damage sustained in severe weather events usually involves distribution rather than transmission lines, the Public Staff’s investigation focused on undergrounding this portion of the electrical power delivery system. The primary purpose of this report is to present the results of that investigation....

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