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Burying power lines underground being explored among solutions to improve utility reliability

Tanya Impeartrice

After multiple lengthy power outages over the last six years, including last week’s ice storm, many residents are demanding solutions. One popular suggestion is to bury the power lines, or “undergrounding”.

Last week’s ice storm has been described as one of the worst in the last 30 years. With ice on tree branches and power lines, it knocked out power to tens of thousands of Washtenaw County residents.

Dan Scripps is the chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission, or the MPSC. They are responsible for overseeing the rates and terms of service for investor-owned utilities. He says all options to improve utility reliability need to be on the table, including burying power lines underground.

“There’s no question that if you underground the wires, you’ll typically have fewer outages. The problem is, that when you do get an outage or a flood event, flood events can also make it much more difficult to restore and extend the length of the outage.”

The MPSC has been conducting a study over the last two years that will explore the best way to improve reliability.

In the meantime, Scripps says the focus needs to be on tree trimming, vegetation management and improving weak areas of the electrical grid.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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