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Changes needed to lower the cost of undergrounding the grid

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

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If we really want to underground the electric grid, some changes to laws and regulations would make a huge difference in cost and ability to underground:

1)    If the undergrounding is in an existing right of way, the utility should have the ability to remove anything that is in the right of way. There should be no method to block the removal, and no way to sue the utility for removal of items in the right of way. Restoring a sidewalk or the grass in a yard, should be required by the utility. 

2)    Opening trenches should be allowed to underground and to repair damaged cables. 

3)    Undergrounding through a wetland should require a relaxed standard for approval. If dielectric fluids are used, there should be no changes to the environmental rules.

4)    Under sidewalk trays should be allowed for utilities, so long as the utilities maintain them. Under sidewalk trays would allow other utilities (like fiber to the home) to share the tray.

5)    Allow the use of plows to cross streets with cables to feed the customers on the other side of the street. Require that the plow scar by properly filled. 

6)    Allow service transformers to be placed outside the right of way, and easements automatically granted from the transformer to the premises that share the transformer.

These changes that could cut the cost and time of under-grounding.

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Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Oct 11, 2021

Will unquestionably cost a lot of money. Refresh my memory - why do we need to do this?

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