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Pilbara Underground Power Project

The Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP) is a partnership between the State Government's Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities initiative and Local Government, delivered by Horizon Power.

The Pilbara Underground Power Project is providing cyclone affected North West towns with a safe and reliable power supply, by replacing ageing overhead electricity infrastructure with underground networks. The project is designed to dramatically reduce the likelihood of power outages to essential services, regional residents and businesses during, and immediately following, adverse weather events.

The first phase of the project involved the undergrounding of powerlines in South Hedland and Wedgefield and about 40 per cent of Karratha. At the end of 2013, the first phase of the project was completed with underground power delivered to 1422 lots in Karratha and more than 1600 lots in South Hedland and Wedgefield.

Horizon Power has now received confirmation of funding for the second phase of the project which will involve undergrounding the remaining lots in Karratha and the overhead lines in Onslow and Roebourne.

The State Government is the major financial contributor to the project through the Royalties for Regions program. Local Government has contributed 25 per cent to the project.

For more information, download the City of Karratha PUPP fact sheet here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PUPP?

The Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP) is a partnership between the State Government's Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities initiative and Local Government, delivered by Horizon Power.

Royalties for Regions is contributing 75% of the project funding – 25% is funded by City of Karratha through rate payers. In Perth ratepayers have paid a 50% contribution towards their project

The PUPP is providing cyclone affected North West towns with a safe and reliable power supply, by replacing ageing overhead electricity infrastructure with underground networks. The project is designed to dramatically reduce the likelihood of power outages to essential services, regional residents and businesses during, and immediately following, adverse weather events.

Why do we need underground power?

Underground power is proven to be safer, more reliable and more aesthetically pleasing than overhead power lines. This is particularly relevant to the Pilbara given the extreme weather conditions experienced in the region. Since 2006, there have been 28 cyclones and major storm events in the north west of Western Australia , with the majority of those impacting the Pilbara. The overhead distribution network is easily damaged by cyclones which can lead to frequent and extended outages of sometimes up to five days.

What towns will be completed in this phase of the project?

Karratha, Onslow and the remaining overhead network in Roebourne

What is the scope of the project?

The scope of the project encompasses:

  • Street services - work such as installation of transformers and switchgear and energising the system post installation, from Bulk Supply Substations to Street Pillars.
  • House services - connections from the pillars to the houses and commissioning.
  • Street light erection - installation and energising of street lighting.
  • Demolition - removal of replaced assets such as transformers, overhead lines, streetlights, house services etc. Interface - connection to the existing network.
  • Communications links - point-to-point communications links between the equipment and control systems, allowing greater remote control over the network.
  • Distribution voltage - upgrade of the distribution voltage in Karratha from 11kV to 22kV.  
What are the benefits of having underground power?

Benefits include;

  • Fewer power interruptions due to severe weather
  • Enhanced visual appearance of your property
  • Improved property values
  • Reduced street tree pruning requirements meaning trees can grow to natural height
  • Brighter, safer streets with the new lighting system
  • Less vehicle accidents involving power poles
What is involved in the undergrounding of power?

The process of undergrounding power includes;

  • 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 Ring Main Units, Transformers and Switchgear Kiosks 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.
  • 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 power poles and overhead power lines (excluding Transmission lines and poles)

 

Is there a risk of flooding an underground network?

There has been underground power available in areas of Karratha since 2001 and many properties are already connected to underground power. There have been many cyclones since that time without flooding damaging the underground network. Most equipment has been positioned to avoid damage and there are also safety procedures in place to deal with such issues. All attempts are made to place the equipment above the 100 year floodline. Cables by nature are robust to flooding.

    Where has work started?

    Works in South Hedland and Wedgefield are now complete with 1,605 Lots connected to the underground network. In Karratha, 1422 Lots (out of 3,304) have been connected to the underground network. The suburbs of Millars Well and Baynton are complete, while Pegs Creek and Bulgarra are partially connected. Dismantling of the redundant overhead network continues in Bulgarra.

    What has completed?

    Works in South Hedland and Wedgefield are now complete with 1,605 Lots connected to the underground network. In Karratha, 1422 Lots (out of 3,304) have been connected to the underground network. The suburbs of Millars Well and Baynton are complete, while Pegs Creek and Bulgarra are partially connected. Dismantling of the redundant overhead network continues in Bulgarra.

    How much of the project is left to be completed?

    Horizon Power has now completed approximately 60% the project scope and completion of the remaining 40% of undergrounding in Karratha, Onslow and Roebourne can now commence as an additional $100 million in funding has been secured.

    What is Horizon Power’s role in the PUPP?

    Horizon Power is responsible for delivering the PUPP, in partnership with the State Government's Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities initiative and Local Government.

    Who does the work?

    Horizon Power will soon be commencing a request for tender process to engage a contractor to complete the next phase of the project. The work will be divided into smaller parcels in order to manage risks and contain costs. This methodology has been proven in recent stages of the project which have been delivered on time and under budget.

    How is PUPP funded?

    The State Government’s Royalties for Regions is contributing 75 per cent of the funding for the remainder of the PUPP, and the remaining 25 per cent is contributed by ratepayers. In the metropolitan area of the state ratepayers are required to contribute 50% to similar underground power projects.

    Will I have to pay for the undergrounding at my property?

    The project is funded primarily from the State Government's Royalties for Regions program. However, your local Council will be contributing 25 per cent to the project. It is normally the process that the funds are recouped from those that benefit directly from the project, therefore adding a charge to the rates is historically the way to raise these funds.

    How much will this cost me?

    The project is funded by the West Australian State Government through the Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities programme and Local Government Authorities. It is highly subsidised by the Government to reduce the cost to individual property owners. The City of Karratha is responsible for contributing 25% of the costs which it then on charges to its ratepayers. Any rates enquiries should be directed to the City of Karratha on (08) 9186 8555. If the query relates to a kVA calculation then this should be directed to Horizon Power on (08) 9159 7250.

    Why are we being charged now when my house might not be undergrounded for another year or so?

    Property owners are required to pay now as expenditure and works will commence at the end of this year, so funding is required to enable this to occur. As you can imagine, there is a lot of work and cabling that is required to connect each and every property in Karratha, to the underground network. It is therefore necessary to charge rates now to start building the underground network to allow your property to be connected to underground power in the future.

    Why do I have to pay so much?

    The amount we have to pay in the Pilbara is lower than the typical contribution in Perth metropolitan areas. The State Government is contributing 75 per cent of the funding for the remainder of the PUPP, meaning ratepayers in Karratha only contribute 25 per cent towards the project. In Perth metropolitan areas, ratepayers typically contribute 50 per cent towards underground power in their suburb.

    Why are electricity prices in the Pilbara so much higher than in Perth?

    All tariff customers in Western Australia pay the same electricity prices, regardless of whether they live in Perth or in rural areas. Electricity bills are typically higher in the Pilbara due to more consumption of electricity particularly with the increased use of air conditioners.

    Does this mean household electricity prices in regional WA will increase?

    No, the cost of electricity is not linked to this project.

    Why should property owners pay for Horizon Power to get new infrastructure?

    It costs Horizon Power a lot less to deliver power to consumers by providing underground power. Ultimately any savings in providing power this way will benefit tax payers through a reduction in the subsidy currently provided by State Government to provide power to regional Western Australia. The shared funding arrangements reflect the benefits gained by property owners, the State Government and Horizon Power. Property owners will benefit from safer and more reliable power particularly during extreme weather events, brighter and safer streetlights, improved streetscapes and a safer public environment. Benefits of this project will last for many generations to come.

    I have two meters at my property and have been charged twice the amount I should have been – please advise how this will be rectified.

    Some businesses have two meters at their property, a main and a sub-meter. It appears that in these instances, our customers have been incorrectly charged as having two main meters at their property, meaning the notice was based on twice the kVA capacity at their property. These errors have been rectified and amended invoices have been sent to these customers by the City of Karratha.

      How will I be notified about works at my property?

      Horizon Power will regularly communicate with householders and property owners by way of written communications and personal visits. When there is a need to temporarily interrupt power supply, you will be given ample written notice. The project has a dedicated Access Co-ordinator to accommodate affected customers’ needs and to coordinate the best time for work to take place. Justine Franklin can be contacted on 0408 694 061.

      Will Horizon Power reinstate lawns, footpaths, reticulation and so on?

      We undertake this work with every effort to reduce the impact on verges and front gardens. Works to roadways, footpaths or driveways is avoided wherever possible. The program of works will include photography of the existing property prior to site works commencing and again on completion of the works to verify the contractors take every care with your property. The contractors restore all work areas as closely as possible to their previous condition.

      What happens if you damage my yard or verge?

      At all times our contractors will take extreme care to minimise disruption to your property. If you notice any damage, please report it immediately to Horizon Power by calling 9159 7250.

      How will you keep me informed about progress?

      We will send you notification of when we will be working near your property. We will also include regular updates in your local paper, the Pilbara News and you can find out more information on our website, www.Horizonpower.com.au Is my property suitable for the changeover to underground power?

      The electrical infrastructure services at all residential and commercial premises that currently have an overhead connection will receive a free safety check to ensure they are compliant with current safety regulations. If a problem is found at this time, further work to upgrade the existing installation maybe required before the changeover can occur. If a major pre-existing electrical fault is identified in the house during the inspections, the power to the premises may be disconnected and a fault note issued to the owner or occupier for safety of the family. In this situation, you will be responsible for engaging the services of a licensed electrician to carry out the work requested before Horizon Power can connect.

      Is my property suitable for the changeover to underground power?

      The electrical infrastructure services at all residential and commercial premises that currently have an overhead connection will receive a free safety check to ensure they are compliant with current safety regulations. If a problem is found at this time, further work to upgrade the existing installation maybe required before the changeover can occur. If a major pre-existing electrical fault is identified in the house during the inspections, the power to the premises may be disconnected and a fault note issued to the owner or occupier for safety of the family. In this situation, you will be responsible for engaging the services of a licensed electrician to carry out the work requested before HP can connect.

      Will my power be switched off because of the project?

      Yes, there will be a requirement to turn the power off to your property at some stage during the project. Horizon Power will endeavour to plan the outage time and duration with minimal disturbances to householders. You will receive adequate notification of when your power will be going off, and for approximately how long that will be for.

      Is it possible I could dig underground and electrocute myself?

      It is important to take care when working near underground networks to avoid damage, disruption, injury and even death from accidental contact. An electrical contractor will place a cable route map in your meter box to indicate the position of the cable on your property. For cables outside your property a warning tape is covering the cables but please contact Dial Before You Dig on 1100 prior commencing any works. In areas where an underground electricity network exists make sure you:

      • Know the location of all electrical infrastructure on or near your property or work site;
      • Do a visual check for electrical infrastructure; and
      • If you plan to dig near or on the verge of your property, call Dial Before You Dig on 1100 to obtain a map of underground pipes and cables in your area. For your own safety, never interfere with electricity infrastructure and never attach or tie anything to it. In an emergency, please dial 000.

       

      How will public safety be ensured throughout the project?

      Safety is the number one priority for Horizon Power and it will ensure that highest level of safety is demanded of its contractors and effectively monitored. If you observe any safety risks or unsafe work practises, please notify us immediately by contacting 1800 267 926.

      Who do I call if I have any problems?

      Horizon Power has dedicated staff who are available to answer any project related questions. For Karratha please call (08) 9159 7250. For any rates related queries, please contact your local shire.

      Operational

      Will you be digging up the roads?

      When there is a requirement to run cable across a road, an underground directional drill will be used, as far as possible, to reduce any damage to roads. If any roads are required to be excavated, traffic control measures will be put in place.

      Is street lighting part of the program?

      As most of the existing street lighting is located on the power poles which are being removed, new streetlights will be installed. Each Council involved in the project will approve the street lighting design as per the Australian Standard.

      What is the process of works?

      Horizon 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. After the pillars in each area are live, 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 be advised in advance of these outages.

      Will all the old overhead wires and poles be removed?

      Yes, all distribution wires and poles will be removed. This may be delayed in some areas until later in the project because the powerlines in question serve as a high voltage “backbone” which feeds power to other areas which are still overhead. This infrastructure will be removed when all properties supplied by those powerlines have been changed to the new underground system.

      Have new contractors been secured? What measures are in place to avoid the delays and cost increases that happened with the previous contractors?

      Horizon Power will commence the tender process to secure contractors for the next phase of the project. The work will be divided into smaller parcels of work in order to manage risks and contain costs. This methodology has been proven in recent stages of the project which have been delivered on time and under budget.

      Technical questions

      What is kVA?

      The amount of electricity available to your property is measured in kVA (Kilo Volt Ampere). For example, a standard residential property is 10 kVA and commercial properties can be significantly higher than this as they require more electricity to run machinery and large appliances. Obviously the higher the amount of power required at a property, more infrastructure is needed to provide that electricity.

      Why has the kVA model been chosen for charging for underground power?

      This model was chosen to ensure fairness of distributing costs for the PUPP between ratepayers. The network has been built for the availability of power needs for each customer and therefore those who use more power pay more for undergrounding their property.

        Area Expected commencement timeline
        Bulgarra West 2015
        Karratha Light Industrial Estate End of 2014
        Roebourne 2015
        Pegs Creek 2016
        Nickol 2016

        Horizon Power Access Controller & Customer Relations - Justine Franklin 9159 7253
        City of Karratha 9186 8555
        Town of Port Hedland 9158 9300
        Shire of Ashburton 9188 4444
        Media enquiries 1800 799 745

        PUPP partners

        • PUPP Partners
        Last updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014 1:44 PM