Dayton Power & Light has amended its electric tariff to require cities and other parties that request the company to bury its power lines to pay for the added expense of relocation.
DP&L’s service area includes parts of Clark County, such as New Carlisle and South Charleston, as well as most of Champaign County.
Burying lines is extremely expensive and forcing electric companies to cover those costs would lead to significantly higher electric rates for customers, industry groups said.
“Additional costs are associated with moving lines,” said Mary Ann Kabel, DP&L spokeswoman. “The community or customer benefiting from the relocation will incur the costs under the approved tariff.”
Earlier this year, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved DP&L’s application to modify its tariff to clarify the company is not financially responsible for relocating or placing lines underground. Cities and other parties that request installations underfoot must pay for the extra construction costs.
New Carlisle City Manager Kimberly Jones said she did not forsee the amended tariff having a huge effect on operations.
“I don’t see it having a major effect on us because we don’t normally have big projects,” Jones said. “It’s minimal at this point.”
Urbana City Engineer Tyler Bumbalough agreed.
“I don’t see this being a big issue in the near future,” he said in an email. “It doesn’t affect any planned projects. Typically, all we need to do is move a pole or two and DP&L does that free of charge as long as it’s project-related.”
“The tariff is consistent with a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling in an AEP-Ohio case that states the community or customer requesting a change in service is required to pay for the relocation,” said DP&L spokeswoman Kabel.
In the mid-2000s, the city of Reynoldsburg attempted to force the Columbus Southern Power Co. to pay for burying some of its overhead lines, citing its ordinance requiring the action.
But the power company had a tariff stating it was not responsible for such costs.
The Supreme Court of Ohio in November 2012 ruled the Columbus company’s tariff takes precedence over local ordinances.
Power companies contend they cannot bear the cost of burying lines because it can be five to 10 times more expensive than overhead construction, sometimes exceeding $1 million for every mile. Power companies said incurring those costs would cause electric rates to skyrocket.
Underground lines are also more difficult and expensive to repair during outages.
“For example, if there is a problem with the line, crews might have to dig up the line to find the cause and repair it,” AEP says on its website. “When lines are overhead, all a trouble man has to do is look up and see the problem.”
Storm data is inconclusive about whether installing lines underground substantially reduces weather-related outages, according to the Edison Electric Institute, which is an association of shareholder-owned electric companies.
But some groups claim that subterranean lines are far more reliable and service is disrupted less frequently than when lines are strung overhead.