According to the Edison Electric Institute, about 18% of the U.S.’ electric distribution lines are buried, but this percentage is growing. PG&E recently announced its $2 billion initiative to bury existing routes, and state and federal initiatives to promote renewable generation and green transportation corridors are driving significant expansion of the grid’s transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Undergrounding cables and deploying new underground cables can increase a circuit’s reliability and has even been called out by the Department of Energy as aligning with Justice40 principles. However, for all of the numerous benefits of underground cables, their deployment can be from four to fourteen times more costly than overhead lines, and unplanned failures in underground cables often take longer to repair with outages lasting from 4-9 days on average. The total cost of ownership driving decisions on overhead verses underground cable deployments are incredibly complex with many inputs that are specific to the utility and the communities where these cables run through. But when a cable is placed underground, monitoring that cable to avoid unplanned outages becomes a sound business decision.