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CPRE questions cost of underground power cables

Environmental lobby group Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling on the National Grid to “come clean” on the cost of underground power cables.

Campaigners want the National Grid to halt plans to build nearly 480km of new overhead power lines and 1,000 pylons through Britain’s countryside.

The CPRE argue that National Grid should not close a public consultation on their approach to undergrounding new power cables early next month, without waiting for an independent report on the comparative cost of installing new high voltage power cables underground, sub-sea or as overhead lines.

This report was requested by Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and Ofgem in October last year.

National Grid agreed to fund the independent study, which was to be carried out by international energy consultancy Kema with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) providing quality assurance.

According to a public note of a meeting with Sir Michael Pitt’s officials, the report was supposed to be published in January 2011. However Kema complained that they could not complete the report with the data available – which included that provided by National Grid. The report, already five months late, has now been indefinitely postponed and Kema removed from the project.

“The National Grid…argue that undergrounding them is far too expensive, yet we are being asked to accept at least a thousand more pylons in the countryside on the strength of cost estimates provided solely by National Grid,” said CPRE Senior Planning Campaigner Paul Miner.

“The current situation seems to suggest National Grid is happy to bury this report if it helps them to avoid burying their cables.”

According to CBRE, National Grid estimates undergrounding power cables costs between 10 and 28 times more than overhead lines. This would be between £26M and £45M per km, however CBRE cite a recent project in London where the cost was £5.7km. They also have found evidence from other European countries where the cost of installing underground cables in tunnels at about four to five times the cost of overhead lines.


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