Undergrounding Power Cables

Nov 14, 2022

BELCO’s primary objective is to provide safe, reliable power to the homes and businesses of Bermuda.

Why doesn’t BELCO put all their power cables underground?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions.

There are several reasons for this, but before we can answer that, it would be helpful to ensure you understand our transmission and distribution system that delivers power to the homes and businesses of Bermuda.

Our entire transmission network is underground and has been for decades. The work that is currently taking place in various parts of the island is to replace old high-voltage cables, some of which are more than 50 years old.

The transmission network is connected to our distribution system via substations. We have 34 substations located throughout the island. The substations convert the higher voltage from our transmission network to a lower voltage for our distribution network. Our distribution network supplies power to homes and businesses via overhead and underground conductors and cables.

In 2021, BELCO generated 563 million kilowatt hours and that power was distributed from the main plant through 34 substations, 255 miles of underground transmission cable, and 915 miles of overhead distribution lines.

While some sections of the distribution network have been put underground, such as for most of Hamilton, cost and serviceability are the main reasons why the entire system is not underground.

If the entire distribution network was underground then fault identification and repair would be lengthy, costly, and more disruptive to customers and members of the public. This is because if a fault was identified in a section of the network the cable would have to be dug up to be repaired. With lengthy repairs comes lengthy outage times for customers.

This issue could be partially addressed with added network redundancy and automation to facilitate “self-healing” that would partially combat lengthy outages, but this comes with added capital investment and higher costs to customers.

Almost 10 years ago it was estimated that to put the entire distribution network underground could cost in the region of $375 million and take ten years to complete. This would also mean higher electricity costs for customers. The cost today would likely be higher.

It is possible for individual homeowners or businesses to have the cables that feed their property placed underground if desired. Once we have received an official request from a property owner, we evaluate the network to determine if the request is possible and if so, the requestor would be required to cover all costs associated with the request being carried out.

It may be assumed that if all cables were underground there would be less outages during storms and high winds – however, the leading cause of outages during high winds is from trees and foliage, often from private properties, hitting overhead conductors causing damage and outages.

We encourage all property owners to trim their trees a minimum of 10 feet away from power lines. While we don’t offer a tree trimming service, we do maintain our own vegetation management programme for main line circuits, and we work with property owners to enable safe trimming of trees by shutting off power with advance notice. Customers can call 295-5111 three weeks in advance to arrange a power shut down.

By working together to keep power lines clear we can reduce the number of outages not just during tropical storms and hurricanes, but throughout the year.

As new project works arise, we evaluate the network to determine if it is possible, reasonable, and feasible to install cables underground. However, the undergrounding of the entire distribution network would be extremely costly, significantly disruptive requiring major public sector engagement inclusive of obtaining permission to lay cables through private property.

Currently, the most cost-effective way to provide safe, reliable energy to Bermuda is for the overhead cables to remain as they are while continuing the current project to upgrade and ensure a more robust high-voltage underground network.

For more information on the topic of underground cables, please visit the following article from 2014: Burying power lines would cost $375 million – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community |

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