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Alliant Energy is 'picking up the pace” on moving power lines in Iowa underground, the president of Alliant's Iowa company told The Gazette.
'There's much more of a focus on it now than there even was in the past decade,” Terry Kouba said.
Kouba attributed the stepped-up effort on burying lines to increased reliability and decreased customer cost.
'Certainly when you get that system underground, it's much more reliable when you have those windstorms, when you have those ice storms, when you have those tornadoes going through the state,” Kouba said.
Aboveground power lines became problematic after the Aug. 10 derecho when more than 130,000 people in the Corridor - some Alliant customers and some customers of other utilities - lost power. It took more than two weeks for the final 500 customers to regain power after the storm.
The desire to bury lines dates to well before the derecho devastated Iowa, though.
Kouba said it's something Alliant has gradually done for the last 40 or 50 years. He said any recent urban subdevelopment likely already has underground lines.
Now, it makes 'more and more sense” to bury the lines that still are above ground, Kouba said.
There's no clear timeline for when he expects this to be complete, though.
'It always depends on many, many factors and how we invest as a utility company,” Kouba said.
Taking a gradual approach instead of burying all the lines in a short period allows the company keep costs low, he added.
'We always balance that advancement against the affordability for our customers,” Kouba said.
The long-term goal is clear, though.
'Ultimately, we want as few (lines) above ground as possible,” he said.
The issue of aboveground power lines has caught the attention of some federal policymakers.
Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, introduced legislation earlier this month that would create a $10 billion annual matching grant program through the U.S. Department of Energy 'to reduce the risk of disaster-caused outages or power lines causing wildfires.”
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