Some utilities like underground wires

Last modified: 8/31/2011 12:00:00 AM
The Monitor's story 'Industry resists buried lines' (Local & State page, Aug. 30) addresses only a subset of all electric utilities: investor-owned utilities (IOUs). In New Hampshire, these include PSNH and Unitil; in Massachusetts, NStar, Unitil or National Grid. IOUs indeed resist moving wires underground.

But municipal utilities ('munis') - in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Electric Co-op, Wolfeboro or Littleton; in Massachusetts, 41 including in Concord, Groton or Littleton - owned and operated locally by cities or towns, bury unsightly overhead wires that fail more often in bad weather and otherwise.

In Concord, Mass., which has its own muni, not NStar like surrounding areas, 40 percent of the network is already underground. The Concord muni spends $600,000 per mile to bury wires. But because its electric rates are 40 percent less than NStar's, undergrounding is effectively free.

In Europe, many electric distribution lines are already underground: in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, almost 100 percent; in Germany, 75 percent; in France, 33 percent.

Public safety, the economy and our local aesthetics would benefit if IOUs followed the example of munis and of their European counterparts by implementing multi-decade plans to bury their distribution infrastructure. But as long as IOUs enjoy a monopoly, that won't happen.

PATRICK MEHR

Lexington, Mass.

(The writer represents the Massachusetts Alliance for Municipal Electric Choice.)




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