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Out of Sight, Out of Mind 2012: An Updated Study on the Undergrounding
Kenneth L. Hall

Since the late 1990s, numerous state studies and reports have been generated in response to the electric service outage impact of unusually large storms. At the writing of this report, states from the mid-Atlantic to New England are recovering from Hurricane Sandy. The storm’s devastation will certainly trigger one additional side-effect: many utility commissions will scrutinize their utility’s response to the event. Following any major storm where a large percentage of the electrical grid is affected for an extended period, utilities, customers, public officials, and the media will undoubtedly study the performance response of any utility impacted by the storm. It is not uncommon for this focus to turn to discussing whether plans on migrating from an overhead (OH) to an underground (UG) electrical infrastructure would resolve or substantially mitigate, weather related outages. Even when storms are not wreaking havoc on the electric utility infrastructure, there are many communities that express the desire to improve the aesthetics of their neighborhoods and roadways by undergrounding all utilities. There are many issues to consider before such a transition can be implemented because undergrounding the system has substantial implications for the reliability, cost, and aesthetics of the electrical system. Many states have issued reports which addressed whether undergrounding the electric utility’s infrastructure would improve the reliability and availability of electric service during and after major storms. Currently, no state has recommended wholesale undergrounding of their utility infrastructure. The cost of conversion has always been the insurmountable obstacle in each of these studies. In this fourth edition of the Out of Sight, Out of Mind report, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has updated the data set collected in the 2009 edition to help provide additional information to guide utilities, states and our customers’ consideration of these issues.

Document Type:
Technical paper
Edison Electric Institute