Pow­er­line de­bate

Would un­der­ground lines stop out­ages from storms?

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Jarred Sfer­uzzi and Inge Hansen

THE re­li­a­bil­ity of Queens­land’s en­ergy dis­tri­bu­tion has been scru­ti­nised by res­i­dents in ar­eas af­fected by Cy­clone Deb­bie af­ter she left about 65,000 homes with­out power.

Over­head pow­er­lines were tar­geted and a Whit­sun­day de­vel­oper is ar­gu­ing they leave com­mu­ni­ties vul­ner­a­ble and cost tax­pay­ers un­nec­es­sary mil­lions.

As Deb­bie tore across the Queens­land coast at Air­lie Beach on March 28, she brought with her winds of up to 260kmh and tor­ren­tial rain last­ing sev­eral days.

Er­gon En­ergy work­ers were on the ground as soon as it was safe and worked re­lent­lessly to re­store power as quickly as pos­si­ble.

But de­spite their best ef­forts, about 21,500 prop­er­ties were still with­out power al­most one week af­ter the cy­clone.

By April 9, that re­duced to 2600.

Janet Ho­gan, owner of Whit­sun­day wed­ding venue Villa Botan­ica and de­vel­oper of Botan­ica Es­tate, said lack of power was the “num­ber one” is­sue for most peo­ple.

She pointed to above­ground pow­er­lines as the main cause of dis­rup­tion.

“To my knowl­edge, any ar­eas that had un­der­ground power where they weren’t af­fected by above-ground power be­ing out were fine,” Ms Ho­gan said.

“To me it’s re­ally tech­nol­ogy that be­longs to last cen­tury and not at all ap­pro­pri­ate for a place prone to ex­treme weather.

“A lot of peo­ple say ‘what about the cost?’ I think in the case of Cy­clone Deb­bie, it would be in­ter­est­ing for some­one to add all the ex­penses and see how much could’ve been saved if all the lines were un­der­ground.”

Ms Ho­gan said even the Botan­ica Es­tate suf­fered from power out­ages from Cy­clone Deb­bie as the in­ter­nal power, which is un­der­ground, was fed by the above ground pow­er­lines which lay out­side the es­tate.

“At Botan­ica Es­tate we’ve used un­der­ground power with­out any is­sue and dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment stage it only added an ap­prox­i­mate 10% to the fi­nal cost for a re­sult that is far

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