A Shortage of Poles? There’s a Fix For That.

I live in Dunedin and one of the better features is the nice views of Otago harbour and the ocean.

One thing of annoyance to me as a Dunedin resident is the visual pollution caused by power and phone lines. I’m all for having a reliable power supply first and foremost however I just think that in this day and age the lines should be buried, especially as rotten poles need replaced.

I read recently that there is a shortage of available new power poles for replacing the dangerous ones identified in 2016 as needing replacement in Dunedin, Central Otago and Lakes Districts.

The shortage of poles got me thinking about the new pole outside our house. More specifically: why is there a pole outside our house? Why not put the lines under the ground? Trenches could replace poles.

I’m no expert but surely by burying the lines some problems will be solved?:

  • No more rotting poles;
  • Protection of the lines from trees, ice, snow and wind;
  • Less cars crashing into poles.

As I’m no expert on infrastructure, I decided to ask the supplier as to why a new pole was installed, particularly as there was a soon to be open trench for water supply in our street. The reply:

Most people understand the need for power lines, even if sometimes they would prefer they were not in their neighbourhood. Unfortunately, undergrounding is very expensive – typically 3 to 9 times the cost of building overhead lines depending on the voltage and location.  Having overhead lines is the most affordable solution for the highest reliability of power supply for consumers. Overhead lines are also relatively easy to access and repair if damaged and are more resilient in the event of a major natural disaster. That means shorter restoration times in the event of damage. Faults on underground cables can be more difficult to locate and repair.

For this reason, Aurora Energy is not currently considering undergrounding projects as part of its capital and maintenance plans, unless required for technical reasons, or the programme is customer funded.

So, there we have it. The cost of underground cables is too high at time of replacement compared to using poles which is certainly an important consideration (Dunedin Council and Companies seem to have a lot of debt already) though I was never asked if I wanted to fund undergrounding.

I see the point made however considering the cries of “quality” regarding Dunedin lately , I’d have thought the City would be looking to the future and playing to the strengths of unimpeded views rather than choosing the cheapest option.

Dunedin has an excellent chance to use the issue of rotting poles to make a start on improving the views and streets by burying lines where practical. Meanwhile I’ll take the positive view of Darryl from “The Castle” and use the poles to remind me of man’s ability to create electricity.

Or I could do as my wife says and “let it go”.


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