You Asked, We Answer: Underground Lines

When power outages happen, one of the top questions we hear from you is “why don’t you bury the power lines?” It’s a great question. After all, fallen trees and branches are a top cause of outages in Nova Scotia—wouldn’t burying the lines solve that problem? Let’s break down the answer.

Are outages less frequent with underground lines?

The short answer is yes—power outages can be less frequent with underground lines. However, when they do occur, the cause is harder to locate and any damage can take much longer to repair. Above ground lines make it easier to find and access the issue and restore power.

How much does it cost to bury power lines?

Burying lines can be 10 times more expensive for customers than running lines overhead. It’s the main reason we don’t typically bury our power lines. We’re regulated to provide the most cost-effective option for customers. In cases where lines are buried, we usually work with developers or municipalities that finance the difference in cost, so customers aren’t impacted.

As a regulated utility, we operate on a cost-of-service model, which means the costs of providing electricity service—like installing new power lines—are shared equally among customers across the province. For us to bury lines in Halifax only, for example, it would be more costly for customers throughout the province—and that’s something we want to avoid.

But wouldn’t it be worth it to reduce power outages?

Beyond cost, there are other important factors to consider that come with transitioning to underground lines. Digging up our streets and sidewalks would be pretty inconvenient for residents—and Nova Scotia’s rocky terrain would make it a challenge.

If burying the lines isn’t an option, how are you preventing outages from happening?

Preventing outages and ensuring you have reliable, safe electricity is our priority. And there are other practical ways we’re focused on strengthening our electrical system for today, and the future.

We spend more than $100 million each year to protect our infrastructure and transmission and distribution network. This includes:

  • Trimming and removing trees that are too close to power lines
  • Large scale projects to upgrade equipment, like rebuilding lines in Ingonish and installing new protective devices along our lines in Musquodoboit
  • Exploring technology like ultrasonic scanning to help detect the high frequency sound given off when an insulator on one of our poles is breaking down

These are just a few examples of the work our teams do every day. We’ve also been testing innovative technology like batteries to understand how they can provide reliable back-up power for customers during outages.

For more information about how we’re investing in our electrical system, visit nspower.ca/reliability.


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