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Author Topic: AEP considers burying lines  (Read 24521 times)
TURobY
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« on: January 08, 2008, 07:49:02 am »

Tulsa World 1/08/2008
quote:
Utility favors burying of lines


By JASON WOMACK World Staff Writer
1/8/2008


AEP-PSO tells regu- lators its storm tab may be $100 million; under- ground benefit cited.


OKLAHOMA CITY -- AEP-PSO told regulators Monday the recent ice storm could cost the company up to $100 million, and advocated doubling efforts to bury its power lines.

During a public meeting with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the utility said it could complete putting power lines underground in 10 to 12 years by increasing customers' electricity bills by 25 cents per month.

"If we can get those radial overhead inaccessible lines underground, there would be a tremendous benefit," said Steve Penrose, AEP-PSO distribution system support manager.

American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma said its customers have experienced a 50 percent reduction in outage minutes in areas where it has moved existing overhead power lines below ground.

In 2005, AEP-PSO began a program to improve reliability across its customer base. It embarked on a tree-trimming program and started burying power lines. So far, AEP-PSO has buried lines in more than 20 Tulsa area neighborhoods.

The utility estimates at the current rate it will complete the conversion of overhead lines to underground lines in 25 years. The program is funded by customers through an electricity bill rider of about $2 per month.

AEP-PSO recommended the accelerated program at the urging of the OCC, the state agency that regulates utilities. The OCC is prohibited from interfering with management discretion; however it can determine what costs the utility can recover through rates.

The commission can also take steps to ensure reliability.

The three-member commission called on AEP-PSO and Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. to carefully examine the costs and benefits of placing lines underground after the ice storm that struck Tulsa on Dec. 9 left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

The storm uprooted trees, snapped more than 1,000 utility poles and severed power to about half of AEP-PSO's 520,000 customers.

The utility has not yet determined the final cost of the storm. But preliminary estimates put AEP-PSO's storm recovery costs at $90 million to $100 million.

OG&E offered an estimate of $50 million.

In addition to costs to the utilities, the state of Oklahoma's two disaster requests so far total about $49 million in damages. However, that preliminary figure only includes costs for debris removal and expenses for utilities that qualify for public assistance, such as rural electric cooperatives and municipally operated electric systems, said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

In many cases, officials haven't yet included overtime expenses, emergency protective measures, or damage to roads and bridges, drainage channels, parks and buildings and equipment.

Ooten said it would likely be weeks before a comprehensive total is available.

Preston Kissman, AEP-PSO vice president of distribution, said the storm costs are still rising as broken limbs continue to fall from storm-ravaged trees.

"We are constantly going out and taking limbs off lines and correcting outages," Kissman told the commission.

"So it's still going on?" Commission Chairman Jeff Cloud asked.

"It's likely to be going on for several months," Kissman said.

AEP-PSO is expected to recover those costs through its rates, pending regulatory approval.

"Be assured that Oklahoma consumers will be asked to pay for that recovery," Assistant Attorney General Bill Humes said. "That is the equivalent of the last several rate cases."

Humes, who represents consumers in rate cases, maintained that the utilities should first examine the success of its tree-trimming program before asking ratepayers to absorb the additional costs of an accelerated program to place lines below ground.

The cost of putting lines underground could run from about $600,000 per mile up to $1 million per mile, the utilities said.

"People need to understand that this is not a decision of whether or not we are going to underground," Humes said following the meeting. "They are going to be asked to pay the million-dollar freight."

The process of burying lines has met with resistance in Tulsa. The city's Maple Ridge neighborhood rejected AEP-PSO's attempt to bury lines, citing aesthetic concerns.

AEP-PSO migrates overhead lines from behind homes to the front. It then buries those lines and places a green box that houses a transformer in the yard of every third or fourth home.

Clayton Vaughn, a resident of Maple Ridge, said the boxes affect home values and the character of the neighborhood and has asked the utility to consider a different method.

"We were never opposed to undergrounding, just the boxes in the yard," he said.

The OCC has asked its staff to examine the costs presented during the meeting and compare them with other state programs.

The commission will then schedule a formal hearing on the matter.

"We will try to move as quickly as we can," Cloud said.
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2008, 07:57:17 am »

this is just lip service.  they have been 'considering' buried lines for a long time.

until I start seeing feeder lines buried, I'm not holding my breath.
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sgrizzle
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2008, 08:02:14 am »

They've been burying lines for awhile. My guess is this might be some sort of initial step to push for more money to bury the lines.

I'm guessing feeders will be last.
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2008, 08:50:47 am »

I hope they bury the MAIN lines.  The feeder lines are not worth the money IMHO, but burying some of the problem mains would - I think, be half the battle for 10% of the cost.
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inteller
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2008, 10:22:45 am »

quote:
Originally posted by cannon_fodder

I hope they bury the MAIN lines.  The feeder lines are not worth the money IMHO, but burying some of the problem mains would - I think, be half the battle for 10% of the cost.



i'd like to know what your definition of MAIN line is because I think it is the same as feeder line.
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2008, 10:27:41 am »

I think CF is thinking of the drop lines.

Keep in mind there were extremely few high-voltage transmission line (to the substation) outages.
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inteller
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« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2008, 10:31:40 am »

quote:
Originally posted by sgrizzle

I think CF is thinking of the drop lines.

Keep in mind there were extremely few high-voltage transmission line (to the substation) outages.



probably, but I'll await his answer.

but let me put it in simple terms.  The lines running up and down roads on tall wooden polls need to be replaced.  Those polls snapped off from the ice, no help from falling limbs needed.
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« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2008, 10:51:12 am »

quote:
Originally posted by inteller

quote:
Originally posted by sgrizzle

I think CF is thinking of the drop lines.

Keep in mind there were extremely few high-voltage transmission line (to the substation) outages.



probably, but I'll await his answer.

but let me put it in simple terms.  The lines running up and down roads on tall wooden polls need to be replaced.  Those polls snapped off from the ice, no help from falling limbs needed.



Those are the distribution lines and are the goal of the undergrounding. The super-tall wood and metal poles probably aren't.
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« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2008, 11:22:11 am »

I'm not a linesmen, and frankly - I don't care what they call them.  I think it would be economical to put lines underground that either feed a large area and/or have frequent weather related outages.

I'd prefer all underground, but at $1mil a mile that's not going to happen anytime soon.
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2008, 11:24:37 am »

I can realistically see giving a higher priority to those lines that are routinely struck by traffic and serve 1500+ customers.
http://www.tulsanow.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=7307

For the "directional boring" experts here, is AEP still overstating the actual costs per mile?

It's still an uphill battle when the cost of undergrounding is borne by AEP investors while the costs of coping with failing overhead lines is borne by AEP customers.
http://www.tulsanow.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=8120
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2008, 01:44:18 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by patric


For the "directional boring" experts here, is AEP still overstating the actual costs per mile?



I know in BA they are buying all new easement space for the lines which adds to the cost.
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2008, 04:48:04 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by patric

I can realistically see giving a higher priority to those lines that are routinely struck by traffic and serve 1500+ customers.
http://www.tulsanow.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=7307

For the "directional boring" experts here, is AEP still overstating the actual costs per mile?

It's still an uphill battle when the cost of undergrounding is borne by AEP investors while the costs of coping with failing overhead lines is borne by AEP customers.
http://www.tulsanow.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=8120



In 2001, for a project I designed where what were originally two lots were combined into one, we were quoted $40,000 for approximately 200 feet of rerouted and buried line.  That works out to approximately $200 per foot of buried line.  $1,000,000 spread over 5,280 feet in a mile is $190 per foot.  Considering that this is 6 years later, I guess that sounds right.  

Also, my understanding is that as they bury power lines, you'll still have poles with phone and cable on them, so it's kind of a half a$$ed way of doing it.  Of course, on our project, all we had to do was call phone and cable companies, and they were glad to bury the lines at no charge to us, as long as they could use the same trench.  A phone rep actually told me that they preferred burying all lines because they have more maintenance issues due to squirrels and other vermin chewing the lines.  Kind of interesting.
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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2008, 08:26:54 pm »

I think it's interesting that the phone company has been burying lines for the past 20 some years at no added cost to the consumer.  Did SWB have a bigger margin to begin with...or were they just better at customer service?  

We lost our power for 10 days in the ice storm of 1986 (or was it 1987?), and twenty years later lost it for...10 days.  This isn't a new issue for PSO...so I think it's weird that progress has been so slow.

By the way, I'd pay a small rate hike if someone would bury every line on Harvard Ave.  What an ungodly eyesore!
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dggriffi
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2008, 10:07:59 pm »

i have rental property and i know that they have come in and replaced the lines to two of my houses with buried lines.   Funny thing is they didn't say anything to me about it and they even ran a new line through the attic to the breaker boxes.  The tenant just let them in without ever telling me.

Not that i mind but it was odd to go out and find a new box on the side of your house.
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2008, 10:59:54 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by PonderInc

I think it's interesting that the phone company has been burying lines for the past 20 some years at no added cost to the consumer.  Did SWB have a bigger margin to begin with...or were they just better at customer service?


It was like that with PSO before AEP took over.
When I buried the line between our meter and the pole, I provided the meter box and trench to PSO's specifications, and at no additional charge they provided the wire and hooked it up at both ends.

Now with AEP, the same job starts at $2,000 and goes up (while aerial service is no charge) which really seems to be just a way to discourage customers from asking for undergrounding.
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