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  6. Report fuels call for power line undergrounding

Report fuels call for power line undergrounding

Countryside campaigners are calling for current plans to build nearly 300 miles of new overhead power lines to be rethought following publication of an independent report into the comparative costs of building new electricity transmission infrastructure.

But National Grid (NG) has said the study won’t prompt fundamental changes to its current proposals for major new overhead line (OHL) projects in the West Country and East Anglia.

Campaigners fighting NG’s plans for new schemes across Suffolk and Somerset claimed the report would support the case for increased use of undergrounding.

The analysis, published and endorsed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), was compiled by engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff, in association with Cable Consulting International. It was funded by NG and met a request from the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) for information on the costs of feasible transmission options.

The report’s remit focused on engineering costs. Although the assessment acknowledged the aesthetic, human and environmental impacts of transmission projects, the researchers provided no analysis on the costs and valuations involved.

David Mercer, NG’s major infrastructure development manager, said: “The findings of the report are broadly in line with the costs that National Grid has been quoting, but there is much detail that will deserve careful study in the coming weeks.”

Tom Leveridge, senior energy campaigner for CPRE, said: “We believe we have been vindicated in our claims that National Grid has historically over-estimated the cost of undergrounding power cables.

“This evidence from this report shows that the current public consultations into nearly 300 miles of new power lines have been proceeding with inaccurate information. We want National Grid to call a halt to any planned construction and restart the consultation process but this time with the real costs and benefits made clear.

“We are also calling for a further study that looks at the wider social and environmental costs of energy transmission.”

The Campaign for National Parks (CNP) has also welcomed the report’s findings. Deputy chief executive Ruth Chambers said: “We welcome the report’s conclusion that underground solutions for electricity transmission are cheaper than previously thought - this is significant for the landscapes of the UK and will prevent cost being used as an excuse not to place infrastructure underground.

“There will now be a more level playing field between overhead and underground technologies, making it easier for solutions that respect England’s finest landscapes to be implemented.”


Roger Milne

2 February 2012