Underground power lines regardless of cost

Oct 26, 2014 | Building Performance, Energy and Carbon, Environment, News | 0 comments

Farmers want high voltage power lines underground regardless of cost.

Emotions are running high on the issue of overhead power lines and whether they should be placed underground or not and with seemingly little rational debate.

Unless each household, business and farm is going to generate its own electricity, then we need an electricity distribution system to distribute electricity from the generators to the consumers. The lowest cost option is to put up poles and string cables across them. The more expensive option is to put the cables underground. Whether overground of underground, it is the consumer who eventually pays. What is need is a rational balance of the benefits and costs and whether the consumer can afford the solution.

Personally I have no problem with overhead high voltage power lines traversing the countryside. There is a certain elegance in the structure of the pylons, but then I am an engineer so I accept that my view is probably at variance with that of the majority.

I have no problem with people wishing the power lines being underground, if that is what the majority wants and the cost is not going to disadvantage industry and the public. What I do have a problem with is that two-thirds of farmers want these lines underground regardless of cost. This displays an incredible degree of naivety. I am sure that if hill walkers demanded that farmers give unrestricted access to walk across their land regardless of cost, there would be an outcry. As an alternative, consider a demand that farmers prevent phosphate runoff from fields regardless of cost.

The concept that if people want something badly enough that it should be undertaken regardless of cost is a concept that will quickly lead the country to economic ruin. There are probably more worthwhile candidates for infrastructure on the regardless of cost basis than underground power lines. Why not have a fully staffed A&E department in every parish. This would certainly be a more important benefit compared to underground power lines. But this does not happen in practice as society cannot afford it. Our taxes would be too high, economic activity would decline and once again there would be mass emigration.

The same goes with underground power lines, if we can afford it and Ireland remains competitive as a country, then let’s do it.