What are the costs and benefits of converting overhead lines to underground cables?

The conversion of overhead lines to underground cables is capital intensive. A partial financial payback occurs over the cable system’s lifetime through reduced outages (and thus reduced revenue losses) , reduced preventive maintenance and repair costs, lesser chances of pilferage and lower energy losses (underground cables have a higher capacitance than overhead lines which compensates inductive loads thereby reducing the current).

However, in addition to the partial financial payback, any return on investment considerations must include the intangible benefits to society and the environment. The elimination of overhead power lines improves the urban skyline and thus preserves the architectural splendor of cities for the aesthetic pleasure of its residents as well as for the promotion of tourism. Land used by overhead lines is released for other civic purposes. The city is safer to live in, as the danger of electrocution through accidental exposure to a live conductor is eliminated. The residents’ exposure to electromagnetic fields is reduced.

Further, the power distribution system becomes more reliable, and therefore more available, as there is greater protection from power outages due to natural calamities (e.g. heavy precipitation, high winds, and falling trees), vehicular accidents, and animal contact with live conductors.