Frequently asked questions

What is involved in the Undergrounding of Power?

  • Laying of new power cables underground - usually in the road verge
  • Installation of green connection pillars, usually in the front corner of private property that serve that property and the immediately adjacent property wherever possible.
  • Installation of transformers and switchgear units to manage the distribution of power throughout the area. These are located in parks or public open space, or where required, on side verges of residential property.
  • Installing an underground connection from the connection pillar to the meter box at each property.
  • Installation of a new street light system designed to meet Australian Standards as closely as possible.
  • Removal of existing wooden poles and overhead power lines (excluding Transmission lines and poles)

What are the benefits of having the power cables laid underground?

  • Fewer blackouts during inclement weather
  • Enhanced visual appearance
  • Improved property values
  • Reduced street tree pruning requirements, trees can grow to natural height
  • Brighter, safer streets with the new lighting system

Who is responsible for managing and overseeing of SUPP?
The State Underground Power Program (SUPP) is managed by the Underground Power Steering Committee based at the Office of Energy and includes representatives from the Office of Energy, Western Power and the WA Local Government Association.
Western Power manages the work in each Project.

How is SUPP funded?
The State Government and Western Power pay 25% each and the relevant Local Government (LG) is required to fund the remaining 50%, usually via the ratepayers.

Are there any additional subsidies for lower socio-economic areas?
Yes, in areas that meet certain Socio Economic Index For Areas criteria from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the responsibility of the LG is reduced from 50% to 35%.

How many projects have been completed?
The SUPP has now completed 38 Major Residential Projects.

What is the process of works?
Western Power use contractors who will first install the Transformers and Switchgear Units. The main cables are then installed around a metre deep under the verges using horizontal boring technology to reduce the impact on lawns and reticulation systems. The connection pillars are then installed and connected to the main cable and will become live once the network is fully connected, tested and commissioned. After the pillars in each area are alive, each property is then changed over to the new underground system. This generally takes about an hour with the power being turned off for approximately 40 minutes. Residents will get ample advice of this work.

Is there much disruption?
The new cables are installed by directional drilling technology and excavation usually only occurs where the drilling rig is positioned or a joint to connect a green pillar is required. Western Power limits the number of work cells their contractors can work in at one time, and maintains tight control over them to ensure excavations are not left open for longer than ten days.  There are only minor disruptions to traffic and very little restriction on access to properties.

Will Western Power reinstate lawns, footpaths, reticulation etc?
The underground drilling processes reduce the impact on verges and front gardens. Works to roadways, footpaths or driveways is avoided wherever possible. The contractors restore all work areas as closely as possible to their previous condition.

Is there any Public Consultation on the Location of Transformers and Switchgear Units?
During the design phase of each project, a public consultation process is conducted in conjunction with the LGA to ensure all stakeholders are aware the need to install the equipment. The process includes:

  • A media release so the public generally are aware of the locations.
  • A letter and photo of each proposed site with the proposed equipment superimposed on it, sent to nearby property owners who either have a direct view of the units or could be affected by their location. The letter seeks comments or feedback to assist finalising the location.
  • A display at the LGA offices with a project map showing all sites and all site/equipment photos.
  • A comment form for responses.
  • Any responses received are considered, and meetings arranged if necessary, before the locations are confirmed. Then a final location letter is sent to all respondents confirming the outcome of each consultation.

Wherever possible, the units are located in parks and public open space. Occasionally it is necessary to locate them on the side verge of a corner property or even the verge in front of a property, however this extremely rare. They can also be screened by native vegetation or wall to soften the visual impact.

Does the cost per property include the connection to the meter box?
Yes, it does. It includes a new underground Property Service cable from the green dome near the front boundary of the property, to the meter.

Some properties already have underground power from the front of the property to the meter box, do these owners still pay for the project?
Yes, even though there is underground power within some properties, around 85% of the cost of the project is for the new underground network that replaces the area’s old overhead system those properties are presently connected to, and owners still need to contribute for that. The LG allows a discount to property owners with existing underground Property Service connections.

Are there any other unknown costs at this point such as for non-compliant electrical installations identified during a Project?
There are no other costs. Any non compliant electrical installation at the meter box is remedied by the project’s electrical contractor at no cost to the owner. The contractor does not otherwise inspect properties for non compliant electrical installations.

What about upgrading the house wiring?
This is not part of the program. The project will only change the method of delivery of power to the meter at the property and do any necessary upgrading of the meter panel. Our electricians do not work on the customer’s side of the board.

Does the project remove the bracket on the house to which the old overhead wire was attached?
These are known as Point of Attachment brackets and they are not removed as part of the project. They are part of the house and are more easily dealt with when the owner is repainting or renovating around there. They are perfectly safe to work on as the old wire from there to the meter box is disconnected from the rear of the meter.

What happens if the land is vacant?
Vacant land will be charged for the cost of underground power, just as for LG rates and sewerage. However, there is a reduction in cost because there is no Property Service connection.

Will all the old overhead wires and poles be removed?
Yes, all distribution wires and poles will be removed. This may not occur in some areas until late in the project because some parts of the overhead system cannot be turned off until all properties have been changed to the new underground system.

Why are Transmission Lines not included in SUPP Projects?
These are not included as they cost in excess of $2 million per kilometre to replace with an underground system and they are not usually affected by storms.

Why should property owners pay for Western Power to get new infrastructure?
It costs Western Power a lot less to deliver power to consumers by maintaining the overhead system rather than undergrounding it. This program is unique in Australia because of the shared funding arrangements that reflect the benefits gained by property owners, the State Government and Western Power. Property owners will gain greatly enhanced streetscapes, better and more reliable power, brighter and safer streetlights and a safer public environment. An added benefit is the demonstrated increased property value.

How do LGs usually meet their financial responsibility for a Project?
Generally, LGs pass all of their responsibility onto the ratepayers in the project area as they gain substantial benefits from having the power network placed underground in their area. Some LGs elect to subsidise the project for various reasons but this is not common.

Are Projects always completed within budget?
Included in the final budget is a series of contingency amounts to allow for minor additional costs such as unforseen issues when using underground drilling processes or excessive rises in the cost of materials. The unused portion of the contingency amount is returned in the relevant proportions to the Government, Western Power and the LG. Since the SUPP started using this process in 2003, no project has exceeded the final budget (including contingency) and LGs have either reimbursed ratepayers or used the funds to enhance the area.