When electricity systems were first developed, the technology didn’t exist to put them underground, so lines were strung along poles. While electricity and other services can be run underground today, cost and convenience are the chief reasons most of Nova Scotia’s 31,800 km of power lines are run above ground.
Many prefer that power lines are buried for aesthetic reasons, and because underground services are less susceptible to power outages. But when they do occur they are often harder to locate and take longer to repair. Burying lines in urban areas can entail digging up sidewalks and disrupting busy streets for extended periods of time. Outside of towns and cities, burying lines can disrupt natural environments.
It’s also about ten times more expensive to install underground than overhead power lines. We take this into consideration because as a regulated utility, NS Power operates on a cost-of-service model whereby the costs of providing electricity service – like installing new power lines – are shared equally among customers across the province. By regulation, customers from Yarmouth to Inverness would share the cost of burying lines in Halifax, or anywhere else in the province. It’s why a customer living on an isolated road in a rural area of the province pays the same power rate as another customer living in downtown Halifax, even if the cost of providing service to those customers is different. We’re mandated to provide low-cost service, and every expenditure we make over $250,000 is first examined by the Utility and Review Board to ensure it is in the best interest of all customers.