BGE: There are drawbacks to underground power lines

February 11, 2011

In your recently-published letter, ("The obvious solution to power outages: bury the lines," Feb. 10), Donald T. Torres of Ellicott City asks why more power lines are not buried underground. The fact is that since the early 1970s, all power lines related to new residential development in Maryland must be underground. Today, more than 60 percent of BGE's power lines are, in fact, underground.

That said, while relocating power lines underground might seem like a logical solution to the problem of storm-related power outages, there are other cost and reliability considerations that must be taken into account. First, compared to overhead lines, the cost of placing power lines underground is significantly higher. We estimate it would require billions of dollars to place all overhead power lines underground across BGE's service territory, which would result in significant increases in the distribution portion of a customer's bill.

Additionally, underground lines are not immune to failure, and diagnosing and repairing underground-related power outages often can extend the time it takes to restore power because unlike with an overhead line, you can't visually identify and fix the problem.

We appreciate the opportunity to answer Mr. Torres' question. Rest assured that these are critical service issues that we review on a regular basis in conjunction with the Maryland Public Service Commission and other key stakeholders. At the end of the day, BGE remains committed to the safe, reliable and cost-effective delivery of electricity to our 1.2 million valued customers.

A. Christopher Burton, Baltimore

The writer is BGE's senior vice president for gas and electric operations and planning.

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