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Posted at 7:00 PM ET, 01/27/2011

Take Obama's advice, Pepco: Bury power lines

By Jeff de La Beaujardiere, Silver Spring

A few inches of snow fell, and nearly half a million local customers were without electricity, again, because of our quaint custom of distributing electricity by festooning wires between wooden poles. If this nation wishes to return to greatness in technological innovation as President Obama called for in his State of the Union address, we need reliable distribution of electricity and data. The only solution is to bury the power lines. The installation costs will be well worth the reduced number of outages.

By Jeff de La Beaujardiere, Silver Spring  | January 27, 2011; 7:00 PM ET
Categories:  DMV, economy, energy, weather  
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The merit of the argument is in the details. What are the costs of the outages? An irritation for most. What are the costs of burying power lines? Truly substantial. And these costs will show up in soaring electric bills. Look before one leaps.

Posted by: jimb | January 28, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

"What are the costs of the outages?"

To whom? PEPCO or the customers it supposedly serves? Customers who lose groceries, hotel costs for those that have no heat, costs to communites for openign warming and food shelters?

"What are the costs of burying power lines?"
It needs to be done, and a plan should be in place to do this over time. What are the up-front costs and cost savings over time after burial?

When power goes out constantly, PEPCO spends money it shouldn't have to, if it was keeping it's service systems as up-to-date as is possible. They are not.

We've been hearing about trees for decades. Trees exist. What is their long-term solution? What is their plan? Is this all PEPCO ever plans to do?

Posted by: Greent | January 28, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

So from where is the money going to come to bury the power lines?

a.) Consumers via higher rates
b.) Taxpayers if some had their way in other words consumer again.

In other words TANSTAAFL.

To tell the truth Pepco needs to be far more aggressive about pruning back trees around power lines than they have been.

Posted by: werehawk | January 29, 2011 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Burying the electric distribution lines will, indeed, reduce the frequency of outages, FOR A WHILE. However, when these lines too, do, ultimately, fail, the outages are likely to be more severe and prolonged. It is much more difficult to isolate a fault on an underground line than a visible, overhead, line. Also, it is much quicker to restore service to an overhead line than an underground one. One should not jump to conclusions without all of the facts. There are also other alternatives to wooden distribution poles, fiberglass, for one. Stronger and more ductile than traditional wooden poles, they are also non-conductive, lighter, and easier and quicker to install. They do not leach toxic chemical preservatives into the ground water supply, but ... they are more expensive, at least in initial purchase price. Cost/benefits analysis should always be done. Investor-owned utilities tend to be focused on the short term benefits, sometimes at the expense of the true life-cycle costs of various structure materials.

Posted by: bguilliams2005 | January 29, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Most of the outcries over the power outages dealt with the responses, or lack thereof. Few, if any, talked about preventing power outages and the few that did, mostly from Pepco, talked about trees. Trees are not the problem. Pepco is. Bury the lines!

It can be done. It was done. It should be done.

New York streets in the late 19th century held messes of wires—telephone and telegraph wires as well as power lines.
The streets are much more attractive—not to mention safer—now that all the wires were buried underground. It’s a result of the Blizzard of 1888. That March storm dumped so much snow on the city, exposed wires and poles all over New York snapped like twigs, knocking out power and communication and paralyzing the city.

Posted by: howiek | January 31, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

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