State Underground Power Program (UPP)
The State Underground Power Program (SUPP) is a State Government initiative administered by the Public Utilities Office at the Department of Finance. Local Councils can nominate areas to be converted to underground power. Each nomination is assessed against social, economic and technical criteria by the SUPP Steering Committee.
There are two streams to the SUPP - Major Residential Projects and Local Enhancement Projects. MRPs are usually around 600 to 1000 properties in residential areas while the LEPs usually underground around a kilometre of roads such as main streets in country towns or council areas in the metropolitan area, or areas of historical or heritage significance.
In Round 4, the Attadale South and Bentley East Projects were both completed in early 2012. Attadale North, the last project in Round 4, commenced in November 2012.
In Round 5, seven projects are in construction and three will commence in 2013.
The following table shows the current status of all remaining Round 4 & 5 projects: -
The steel poles used are collapsible to reduce damage and injuries if they are hit by vehicles.
|Project||Local Government||Status||Completion Due|
|Salter Point||City of South Perth||Started October 2011||April 2013|
|Lathlain North & South||Town of Victoria Park||Started November 2011||April 2013|
|Ashfield||Town of Bassendean||Started March 2012||March 2013|
|Coolbellup East||City of Cockburn||Started March 2012||July 2013|
|Ardross West||City of Melville||Started September 2012||September 2013|
|Attadale||City of Melville||Started November 2012||December 2013|
|Hamilton Hill||City of Cockburn||Started January 2013||January 2014|
|Wilson East||City of Canning||Start March 2013||1st Quarter 2014|
|Shoalwater North||City of Rockingham||Start 3rd Quarter 2013||3rd Quarter 2014|
|Coolbinia||City of Stirling||Start 3rd Quarter 2013||3rd Quarter 2014|
Localised Enhancement Projects Rounds 4 & 5
In Round 4, all projects are now complete except Moir St Perth which is due to commence in 2013.
In Round 5, Councils were invited in late 2011 to apply for funding for projects in their areas. The Public Utilities Office assessed all applications and the Minister for Energy announced 9 successful Round 5 LEPs in October 2012.
City of Bunbury - Spencer St
Shire of Collie - Throssell St
City of Albany - Albany Highway
Shire of Katanning - Clive St
City of Greater Geraldton
Shire of Murray - Pinjarra Rd
Shire of Kalamunda - Stirk St
Shire of Exmouth - Kennedy St
Shire of Laverton - Augusta St
These projects will be developed through 2013 and constructed during 2014.
Generally, the cost of each MRP is shared between the State Government (25%), Western Power (25%) and the Local Councils (50%). Local Councils usually pass their responsibility to the property owners in the project area as they gain significant advantages from the conversion of the power system to underground.
The funding for LEPs is similar to MRPs but the State Government and Western Power contributions are capped at $500,000 each.
New, Brighter, Safer, Streetlights
In each project, a new street lighting system designed to the Australian Standard is installed. There are around 10% more lights installed than are removed with the old overhead system. The new lights are more closely spaced, generally alternated from one side of the road to the other, and placed around a metre from the kerb to provide more light to the roadway. The steel light poles will collapse when hit by vehicles to reduce damage and injuries.
Frequently asked questions
What is involved in the Undergrounding of Power?
Laying of new power cables underground - usually in the road verge
Installation of green connection pillars, usually in the front corner of private property that serve that property and the immediately adjacent property wherever possible.
Installation of transformers and switchgear units to manage the distribution of power throughout the area. These are located in parks or public open space, or where required, on side verges of residential property.
Installing an underground connection from the connection pillar to the meter box at each property.
Installation of a new street light system designed to meet Australian Standards as closely as possible.
Removal of existing wooden poles and overhead power lines (excluding Transmission lines and poles)
What are the benefits of having the power cables laid underground?
Fewer blackouts during inclement weather
Enhanced visual appearance
Improved property values
Reduced street tree pruning requirements, trees can grow to natural height
Brighter, safer streets with the new lighting system
Who is responsible for managing and overseeing of SUPP?
The State Underground Power Program (SUPP) is managed by the State Underground Power Steering Committee based at the Public Utilities Office and includes representatives from the Public Utilities Office, Western Power and the WA Local Government Association.
Western Power manages the work in each Project.
How is SUPP funded?
The State Government and Western Power pay 25% each and the relevant Local Government (LG) is required to fund the remaining 50%, usually via the ratepayers.
Are there any additional subsidies for lower socio-economic areas?
Yes, in areas that meet certain Socio Economic Index For Areas criteria from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the responsibility of the LG is reduced from 50% to 35%.
How many projects have been completed?
The SUPP has now completed 41 Major Residential Projects and 30 Local Enhancement Projects.
What is the process of works?
Western Power use contractors who will first install the Transformers and Switchgear Units. The main cables are then installed around a metre deep under the verges using horizontal boring technology to reduce the impact on lawns and reticulation systems. The connection pillars are then installed and connected to the main cable and will become live once the network is fully connected, tested and commissioned. Cables are also installed, where required, to connect from the pillar to each meter box and after the pillars in each area are energised, each property is then changed over to the new underground system. This generally takes about an hour with the power being turned off for approximately 40 minutes. Residents will get ample advice of this work. Finally, after changeovers are complete, the old overhead system can be decommissioned and demolished.
Is there much disruption?
The new cables are installed by directional drilling technology and excavation usually only occurs where the drilling rig is positioned or a joint to connect a green pillar is required. Western Power limits the number of work cells their contractors can work in at one time, and maintains tight control over them to ensure excavations are not left open for longer than ten days. There are only minor disruptions to traffic and very little restriction on access to properties.
Will Western Power reinstate lawns, footpaths, reticulation etc?
The underground drilling processes reduce the impact on verges and front gardens. Damage to roadways, footpaths or driveways is avoided wherever possible. The contractors restore all work areas as closely as possible to their previous condition.
Is there any Public Consultation on the Location of Transformers and Switchgear Units?
A full public consultation process is conducted with owners of properties where the units are visible to them. Wherever possible, the units are located in parks and public open space and are screened with native vegetation if needed.
Does the cost per property include the connection to the meter box?
Yes, it does. It includes a new underground Property Service cable from the green dome near the front boundary of the property, to the meter.
Some properties already have underground power from the front of the property to the meter box, do these owners still pay for the project?
Yes, even though there is underground power within some properties, around 85% of the cost of the project is for the new underground network that replaces the area’s old overhead system those properties are presently connected to, and owners still need to contribute for that. The LG allows a discount to property owners with existing underground Property Service connections.
Are there any other unknown costs at this point such as for non-compliant electrical installations identified during a Project?
There are no other costs. Any non compliant electrical installation at the meter box is remedied by the project’s electrical contractor at no cost to the owner. The contractor does not otherwise inspect properties for non compliant electrical installations.
What about upgrading the house wiring?
This is not part of the program. The project will only change the method of delivery of power to the meter at the property and do any necessary upgrading of the meter panel. Our electricians do not work on the customer’s side of the board.
Does the project remove the bracket on the house to which the old overhead wire was attached?
These are known as Point of Attachment brackets and they are not removed as part of the project. They are part of the house and are more easily dealt with when the owner is repainting or renovating around there. They are perfectly safe to work on as the old wire from there to the meter box is disconnected from the rear of the meter.
What happens if the land is vacant?
Vacant land will be charged for the cost of underground power, just as for LG rates and sewerage. However, there is a reduction in cost because there is no Property Service connection.
Will all the old overhead wires and poles be removed?
Yes, all distribution wires and poles will be removed. This may not occur in some areas until late in the project because some parts of the overhead system cannot be turned off until all properties have been changed to the new underground system.
Why are Transmission Lines not included in SUPP Projects?
These are not included as they cost in excess of $2 million per kilometre to replace with an underground system and they are not usually affected by storms.
Why should property owners pay for Western Power to get new infrastructure?
It costs Western Power a lot less to deliver power to consumers by maintaining the overhead system rather than undergrounding it. This program is unique in Australia because of the shared funding arrangements that reflect the benefits gained by property owners, the State Government and Western Power. Property owners will gain greatly enhanced streetscapes, better and more reliable power, brighter and safer streetlights and a safer public environment. An added benefit is the demonstrated increased property value.
How do LGs usually meet their financial responsibility for a Project?
Generally, LGs pass all of their responsibility onto the ratepayers in the project area as they gain substantial benefits from having the power network placed underground in their area. Some LGs elect to subsidise the project for various reasons but this is not common.
Are Projects always completed within budget?
Included in the final budget is a series of contingency amounts to allow for minor additional costs such as unforseen issues when using underground drilling processes or excessive rises in the cost of materials. The unused portion of the contingency amount is returned in the relevant proportions to the Government, Western Power and the LG. Since the SUPP started using this process in 2003, no project has exceeded the final budget (including contingency) and LGs have either reimbursed ratepayers or used the funds to enhance the area.
Project history and statistics
After significant damage was caused to Western Power’s overhead network in very severe storms in 1994, the State Government established the State Underground Power Program (SUPP) to convert areas of overhead wires and poles to underground.. A Steering Committee, comprising the Public Utilities Office (previously the Office of Energy), Western Power and the WA Local Government Association, was established to manage the program.
Pilot projects involving around 7,000 households were successfully carried out in Applecross, Albany, Cottesloe/Claremont and Wembley between 1996 and 1999.
In 1998, the Minister for Energy announced that the program would continue and invited local councils to apply for projects within their area to be considered for funding. The selected projects became Round One of the State Underground Power Program (SUPP).
A major residential project typically includes 600 to 1000 residential lots.
41 residential projects and 30 Localised Enhancement Projects have been completed in the SUPP, costing around $315 million.
Around 78,000 electricity meters have been converted to underground
This represents around 18% per cent of the overhead distribution network that existed when the program began in 1996.
The combination of all our underground power initiatives means that around 54% of the Perth metropolitan area is now underground.
The State Government and Western Power each contribute about $10 million to the annual SUPP budget of $40 million.
The following major residential projects have been completed under the SUPP.
|Pilot Projects||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
|Albany||Cottesloe||Bicton||Victoria Park South||Mt Pleasant North|
|Applecross||Peppermint Grove||East Fremantle||Shenton Park||Palm Beach|
|Cottesloe/ Claremont||Dalkeith/ Swanbourne||Rivervale||Gosnells North||Maddington|
|Wembley||Woodlands||South Perth||City Beach||Wilson West|
|Como||Claremont||Port Hedland||Attadale South|
|Rossmoyne||Mt Pleasant/ Booragoon||Fremantle||Bentley East|
|East Fremantle/ Plympton||Mt Lawley||Nedlands East|
|West Leederville/ North Wembley||Highgate|
|East Victoria Park/Carlisle||Wembley Downs|
|North Mosman Park|
The following localised enhancement projects have been completed under the SUPP.
|Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
|Warren Road, Nannup||Jarrahdale Road, Jarrahdale||Ocean Drive, Bunbury||Toodyay|
|Steward Street, Dowerin||Albany Highway, Gosnells||Lowood and Langton Roads, Mt Barker||Heaton St, Jurien Bay|
|South Western Highway, Donnybrook||Denham Road, Denham||Main Street, Balingup||Brunswick Junction|
|Steer Street, Collie||Rockingham Beach Precinct||Brockman Street, Nannup||Albany Hwy, Victoria Park|
|Bussell Highway, Margaret River||George Street, Pinjarra||Stubbs Street, Lake Grace||Cowaramup|
|Moreton Terrace, Dongara||Mundaring Township, Mundaring||Giblett and Brockman Streets Manjimup|
|Mary Street, Highgate||Foreshore Geraldton|
|Uduc Road, Harvey|
|Scarborough Beach Precinct|
|Hampton Street, Bridgetown|
If you have any questions about past SUPP projects, please contact us.