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Why can’t all poles be undergrounded or replaced with steel or concrete poles?

There are many variables that come into play when deciding what type of electricity network to build or replace in each area. Like all our decisions, we are constantly weighing up the community’s desires against our need to invest wisely when it comes to deciding on overhead and underground power. 

When overhead powerlines reach the end of their lifespan and need to be upgraded, the area is assessed individually and the safest, most reliable and cost-effective solution will be determined – whether that be underground or overhead. 

In areas with an existing overhead network, it is not cost-effective to replace the network ahead of its normal lifespan – when it’s in, it’s better to maintain than completely replace. 

We’ve assessed using concrete poles in the past, and there are a number of reasons they’re not suitable. 

  1. WA has highly resistant soils (in terms of electricity passing through the earth’s surface – or returning to “earth”). Concrete and steel poles require more complicated and more expensive earthing protection systems as a result, because of their own individual conductivity properties (they are better conductors). Wood is the most efficient option for WA conditions.
  2. A wood pole is relatively inexpensive (about 10% of the cost of replacing a pole and conductor and insulators etc), and adds little to the work that would be required by a crew after a severe weather event.