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energy for life

Pilbara Underground Power Project

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

The 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 finish line is on the horizon for the Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP). Works are being carried out simultaneously in Nickol, the final suburb to be connected to the new underground network in Karratha together with the town of Onslow.

All civil work has been completed in the suburb of Nickol and the electrical contractor, Electech WA, is now well underway connecting homes in Nickol North and conducting inspections in Nickol South.

The project experienced an additional milestone in Onslow in June with all properties in the Light Industrial Area (LIA) connected to the underground power network. The electrical connections were carried out following the completion of underground civil works with each property having their existing electricity connections inspected to ensure compliance with regulations and standards.

The dismantling of the old power lines and poles in Nickol and Onslow is scheduled to be completed by July 2018.

 

*Area completed in Phase two under PUPP
**Civil works include drilling and excavating to install underground infrastructure
***Electrical works involve inspecting and changing over each property to the underground network.

About 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.

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 more than 30 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. 

Karratha, Onslow and the remaining overhead network in Roebourne.

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. 

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

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)

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 flood line. Cables by nature are robust to flooding.

Project information

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

Horizon Power uses the open tendering process to secure contractors for the different phases of the project. The project is 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 on budget. You can view open tenders at Tenders WA.

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.

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.

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.

In order to underground the electricity network in a town, there is a lot of work and cabling installation that is required before works to individual properties commences. It is therefore necessary to charge the rates upfront to start building the underground network to allow all properties to be connected to underground power in the future.

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. 

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. 

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

Undergrounding your property

A fact sheet is available if you have questions about what to expect during works at your property.

There are four stages of works during PUPP to convert properties to the underground network.
These include:

1. Construct (‘civil’ works): In this stage, crews will excavate and sink the cables into the ground and install streetlights. In residential areas you will notice trenches being dug at certain points and then an underground drill is used to install the cable to each property. This method is used to reduce disruptions to these areas. Works on individual properties involves installation of a green pillar in front yards and laying underground cable between the green pillar and meter box. This requires drilling to take place, and in some instances it may be necessary to remove a section of concrete or pavement underneath the meter box to enable the cables to be connected to the meter. Bulgarra and the LIA are now in this stage.

2. Prepare (‘electrical’ works): The electrical infrastructure services at all residential and commercial premises that currently have an overhead connection will be checked to ensure they are suitable for the changeover process. If a problem is found at this time, further work to upgrade the existing installations may be required before the changeover can occur.

3. Change (‘electrical’ works): Changeover to the new underground system will take place once all property and street services in the immediate area are installed.

4. Complete: Old infrastructure is removed and new streetlights will now be switched on once all properties in the area have been converted to the underground network.

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. To contact the Access Coordinator, please call 9159 7253.

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.

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 the PUPP Access Coordinator on 9159 7253.

We will send you notification of when we will be working near your property. We will also include regular updates in your local paper and you can find out more information on the Horizon Power website.

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.

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.

It is always 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. 

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 practices, please notify us immediately by contacting the PUPP Access Coordinator on (08) 9159 7253.

Horizon Power has dedicated staff who are available to answer any project related questions. For Karratha please call (08) 9159 7253. For any rates related queries, please contact your local shire.

Operational

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.

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. Any new streetlights that are installed will not be live until the whole area has been converted to the underground network.

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. 

Horizon Power uses the open tendering process to secure contractors for the different phases of the project. The project is 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 on budget. You can view open tenders at Tenders WA.

Technical questions

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. 

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.