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Making the switch from overhead to underground

As we move towards a cleaner energy future with greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, there is a comparable growing demand for a reliable and safe power supply. More electrification of our lives means we need a more robust network to deliver that electricity to our community. Western Power is transforming the grid to enable industry and the community to achieve their decarbonisation goals. One important part of this is the continued roll out of underground power.

Underground power

Undergrounding the network helps us towards all elements of our vision to safely provide reliable supply, keep costs low and enable decarbonisation for our community.

Undergrounding power offers improved reliability and safety as there is a reduced risk of fallen powerlines during storm conditions or vehicle collisions with power poles. Fewer disruptions during extreme weather, means fewer power outages.

The underground network has a greater power supply capacity than the overhead network, meaning more renewable generation can be connected, and provides improved opportunities for emerging technologies.

Through our Underground Power programs, and together with mandatory underground power requirements for new developments, more than 65% of the Perth metropolitan area now benefits from underground power.

Benefits of underground power

Underground power is designed to deliver reliable and safe power, while improving street appearance and opportunities for increasing the uptake of solar and other technologies.

We are committed to working with the State Government, Local Government and the community to deliver the many benefits of underground power.

  • Improved public safety - with improved streetlighting making neighbourhoods safer.
  • Lower life cycle cost - underground power has minimal maintenance and operating costs.
  • Improved reliability and security - once the power is underground, you’re likely to experience fewer disruptions during significant storm events, which means fewer power outages.
  • Improved street appearance - who doesn’t want to live on a nice-looking street? Removing powerlines create a more aesthetically pleasing neighbourhood.
  • Reduction in street tree pruning - no need to worry about trees getting in the way of poles any more! The property owner and Local Government will save on maintenance costs.
  • Increased property values - the absence of poles and wires and the inclusion of new streetlighting has a positive impact on property values.
  • Support emerging technologies - underground power helps pave the way for innovation and caters better to future power demand.
city of south perth street view before After photo city of south perth

Photos courtesy of City of South Perth

Our underground power programs

The State Government has been supporting underground power programs since 1996, with more than 100,000 properties converted from overhead to underground power to date.

Now, through programs such as our network renewal Targeted Underground Power Program (TUPP), that growth is accelerating and a further 29,000 homes are set to receive underground power by 2027.

We currently manage four programs converting the overhead network to underground power:

Targeted Underground Power Program (TUPP) - Western Power selects areas based on a network driven approach in accordance with the network renewal undergrounding program. We make offers to Local Governments to complete undergrounding in parts of their Local Government, in priority order.

The cost of undergrounding is shared between the State Government, Western Power, Local Government and property owners, with the State Government's funding tiered based on socio-economic indicators.

The first TUPP project is scheduled for delivery in 2025.

TUPP is a collaboration between Local Government (WALGA), the State Government and Western Power. Targeted Underground Power Program Guidelines outline the processes, decision making pathways and responsibilities for TUPP implementation

Network Renewal Undergrounding Program Pilot (NRUPP) - a program driven by Western Power targeting areas with a high density of aging overhead distribution assets.

The cost of undergrounding is shared between Western Power, the Local Government and property owners.

It is a pilot program that has been replaced with the TUPP.

Retrospective Undergrounding Projects (RUP) - a program that allows Local Government who would like to have underground power installed in an area that is not on our network driven priority list to apply for undergrounding.

Local Governments are able to apply for our Retrospective Underground Program online.

These projects are primarily funded directly by the Local Government and property owners, with a contribution from Western Power.

State Underground Power Program (SUPP) - the cost of undergrounding is shared between the State Government, Western Power, Local Government and property owners.

This program is expected to be completed in 2024.​

Is my area switching to underground power?

Western Power spends around $1 billion each year upgrading and maintaining the network to manage safety, reliability and environmental risks.

As part of our asset management process, we identify areas with assets needing replacement and determine the renewal and maintenance work that is required.

Traditionally the work involves like-for-like replacement of assets, however when identified as beneficial to the community and cost effective to do so, we may convert the overhead network to underground as part of this asset replacement.

Targeted Underground Power Program (TUPP) areas are selected through a network driven approach in accordance with our network renewal undergrounding program.

View indicative map of our network renewal underground program.

Current projects

Note: Project timelines are subject to change.

What you can expect when underground power is coming to your suburb

underground power diagram Perth western australia

Electricity icon

1. Consumer mains connection

The cable connecting your house (meter box) to the pillar will be installed at a depth of 500 - 650mm. It becomes your property as the landowner.

Green dome icon

2. Pillar (green dome)

The connection point between your home and the network is installed on your property boundary. Typically one unit services two properties.

Streetlight icon

3. Streetlights

New LED streetlights will be installed to Australian Standards. Compared to conventional streetlights, the new LED system provides enhanced illumination and may appear brighter.

Transmission poles icon

4. Distribution network

The network of high voltage/low voltage underground cables that provide power to your area.

Additional equipment in your area

underground diagram

Transmission lines carry bulk electricity at high voltages from power stations to substations, where power is transformed for distribution to customers. Overhead transmission lines in your area will not be underground due to the high cost of undergrounding transmission infrastructure.

Primary equipment such as ground mounted transformers and switchgear units, enables the distribution of electricity to customers through the underground network. This equipment was previously located on overhead poles, and as part of the conversion to underground power we move them to the ground.

Primary equipment

Integral to this evolution is primary equipment. This isn’t just hardware; it’s the linchpin that channels electricity into our homes and businesses. Primary equipment has the following role:

  • Ensures a stable connection for your electrical needs, swiftly reconfiguring networks duringoutages.
  • Localises faults, affecting fewer residents during disruptions.
  • Adapts to community power demands with automated switching between circuits.
  • Enhances voltage regulation, ensuring a stable energy flow to homes and businesses.
  • Provides data to help us make decisions about our community’s energy needs.

Primary underground power equipment

Types and placement of primary equipment

When moving power lines underground and removing poles, other gear needs to come down as well! These various primary equipment types are:

  • Transformers: Converting higher voltages to a safe level for your home and local businesses.
  • High voltage switchgear: Protecting the system’s integrity and allowing nimble maintenance without extensive outages.
  • Low voltage kiosks: Distributing power to multiple premises, designed for quick recovery from faults.

Find out more about primary equipment