Many years ago a man I knew, who worked with the then State Electricity Commission, said, sarcastically, “the most beautiful tree is one with power lines attached at the top.” Throughout most of the older suburbs of Perth, and many country towns, you will see power lines strung at the top of poles running alongside each road, with feeder lines off at appropriate intervals to provide power to the houses. In newer suburbs, and those with some political or financial clout, you will find most power lines are now underground, with connection points on the property boundary, at ground level, and no power poles and swinging electricity cables.
Countless efforts have been made to encourage Western Power to get all consumer power lines underground, and it has been mooted that to do that will cost $3000 per house. That’s either distorted by looking at the cost of putting power underground for one property in a street, or is a reflection of an unwillingness to look at the savings generated by having the power lines underground.
A number of months back, someone took a corner too quickly in my street and broke the power pole, resulting in power being cut to many homes, fortunately not on a hot summer night. Western Power workers arrived to assess the damage and report back. After some time a truck arrived with a new power pole, and a large team of workers started disconnecting the overhead wires from the broken pole, which was still standing upright. With the top of the broken pole removed work could start on removing that part in the ground, and then on putting the new pole in place. After that, the workers, some there for safety reasons, started the long task of reconnecting the power lines to the new insulators on the power pole, and eventually we had power restored. If our power lines had been underground then it would have taken one, or at most two, workers to remove a broken connector box and replace it, and it would have taken minutes, not hours.
The situation is much worse with winter storms. Power lines are brought down with high winds and heavy rain, and we expect Western Power workers to go out in stormy weather, risking their own lives, to restore power after such a break. Even this month (January 2017) there were many people without power for a day because of pole-top fires and other problems arising from less than 1mm or precipitation. The financial cost of having larger teams out in stormy weather, trying to restore power, would virtually disappear with underground power lines. Equipment is readily available to bore through ground under driveways, and to dig suitable trenches on council land in front of houses, to allow new power cables to be laid underground, with connections to a junction box on the edge of the property. The cost of running a cable from that box to the meter box on each house wall is not large, and we would ALL gain from having the power lines out of the way of weather and cars.
I will push strongly for:
● a well-publicised commitment to convert every suburb in Perth, and every country town, to underground power use, saving Western Power large sums from restoring power after lines have been brought down or disabled, and from compensation for those who have been without power for some time;
● a proper reticulation system so that if power is cut at one point there is an alternative path for electricity to reach buildings which are often cut off under the present system;
● an improvement in the way power from PV cells is handled so that larger power supplies can be fed back into the grid, and people can be paid for supplying larger amounts of power;
● modification to meters so that those with PV cells producing electricity can use that electricity when the grid power is disconnected for some reason
Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.