PILBARA UNDERGROUND POWER PROJECTThe Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP) is a partnership between the State Government, through Royalties for Regions and Local Government, delivered by Horizon Power.
The project aims to provide cyclone affected North West towns with a safe and reliable power supply, by replacing aging overhead electricity infrastructure with underground networks.
Download the October 2011 Shire Update (1mb PDF)
Download the August 2011 Shire Update (1mb PDF)
Frequently Asked Questions
Ratepayer contributions (Shire of Roebourne)
Q: What is the Pilbara Underground Power Project?
A: This Pilbara Underground Power Project is a partnership between the Government of Western Australia (through the Royalties for Regions Pilbara Cities Program) and Local Government Authorities, including the Shire of Roebourne. The project, delivered by Horizon Power, aims to provide cyclone-prone North West towns with a safer and more reliable power supply, by replacing ageing overhead electricity infrastructure with underground networks. The project will dramatically improve safety and reduce the likelihood of power outages to essential services, residences and businesses during, and immediately following, adverse weather events.
This project is particularly important in the context of tornado, which, early in 2011, caused significant damage to the town’s existing overhead power network, requiring Horizon Power to work tirelessly to restore electricity supply to residences and businesses.
Q: Which towns in the Shire of Roebourne are getting underground power?
A: Karratha, the Karratha Industrial Estate and the remaining overhead network in Roebourne.
Q: Why do I have to pay and not the Shire?
A: The project is 75% funded primarily from the State Government’s Royalties for Regions program. However, the Shire of Roebourne will be contributing 25 per cent to the project.
The Shire of Roebourne will need to raise their 25 per cent contribution to the project with a service charge to be levied in 2013/14 against properties that benefit from the underground power.
That means that property owners in Karratha will contribute towards the project costs. These costs will be levied on householders and businesses, depending on the amount of power they are able to draw from their property.
Due to delays in the delivery of the project, Roebourne Shire Council resolved, at its February Ordinary Council Meeting, that ratepayers would not be required to contribute to the PUPP until the 2013/14 financial year. The resolution will mean ratepayers have an additional 12 months before they are required to contribute.
Q: How much will I have to pay?
A: At its September Ordinary Council Meeting, Roebourne Shire Council adopted a ratepayer contribution model for the Pilbara Underground Power Project, developed by Alliance Power and Data, on behalf of the Shire of Roebourne. On average, residential property owners in Karratha will be required to contribute approximately $3,300 towards the project.
Until a funding agreement between Horizon Power and the Shire of Roebourne is signed by The Minister for Energy, the Hon. Peter Collier, MLC, we cannot provide ratepayers with the final value of this contribution.
Once this agreement is signed, the Shire will write to property owners, including those with non-residential properties, outlining the specific service charge they are required to pay. The contribution required by non-residential property owners will vary greatly, based on installed power capacity, and as such as average figure cannot be provided.
Q: What is the service charge comprised of?
A: The service charge is comprised of a contribution to:
• Undergrounding of high-voltage infrastructure
• Undergrounding of low-voltage infrastructure
• Connection to your property
Q: How will I be required to pay?
A: Shire employees are currently working to finalise the details of how the service charged will be paid. At this stage, it is most likely that this service charge will be kept separate from your usual rates notice. Ratepayers will have the option to pay the service charge in instalments over four years.
Q: Do I still have to pay if I have purchased a newly-developed lot or property with an existing underground connection?
A: All property owners within the project area will be required to contribute to the undergrounding of the high-voltage network. This contribution will be approximately $300. However, if a property has an existing underground power connection and/or an undergrounded low-voltage network, the owner will not be required to pay any additional charges.
Q: As a pensioner, am I entitled to any concessions?
A: Eligible pensioners will be entitled to a concession consistent with the Shire’s rating policy.
Q: Why wasn’t I given an opportunity to provide input into this project?
A: In January 2010, the WA Government - through its Royalties for Regions Fund - announced it would contribute an unprecedented $100million to deliver underground power in the Pilbara.
This funding allocation was non-discretionary and the Shire of Roebourne chose to take advantage of this generous contribution for the betterment of the entire community.
Usually, local government authorities are required to pay 50 per cent of the total project costs however the Shire of Roebourne will only need to contribute 25 per cent minimising costs to the ratepayers.
Q: Where has this happened before?
A: Many communities across WA and throughout Australia have been required to make a contribution to the cost of installing underground power networks.
In 2007, the Town of Port Hedland undergrounded its power and partly funded this with contributions being obtained by ratepayers directly benefiting from the project.
Q: Do I have to pay?
A: Yes. The ratepayer contribution is mandatory. However there are a number of payment options available.
Q: What payment options are available to me?
A: Payments can be made by instalments extended over periods of up to four years. An approximate annual interest charge of 5.5 per cent will apply to cover financing costs and administration.
Q: What happens if I refuse to pay?
A: It is a requirement that ratepayers pay their contribution to the project. (Refer to answer above for payment options)
Q: I am a pensioner or senior, what discount concessions am I eligible for?
A: Registered pensioners will be entitled to defer their payments until the sale of their property.
Q: How are large, commercial, multiple residential and non-rateable properties charged?
A: These properties will be charged on the basis of electrical load (measured in kVA) required to service the property. Horizon Power identified the kVA load for each property in Karratha at the commencement of the project. Each ratepayer will be required to pay a base network charge, plus a capacity charge based on the kVA usage.
Discounts will apply for any underground equipment that already exists within the property area.
Q: What would happen if I moved or sold my investment property – would I still have to pay?
A: The ratepayer contribution still outstanding at the time of sale would need to be paid at settlement of the property.
Project management (Horizon Power)
Q: Why do we need underground power?
A: 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.
Much of the network in the Pilbara is nearing the end of its useful life. Rather than replacing with overhead network, it is timely to install underground power.
Q: What will happen to the old overhead network?
A: The old overhead power lines will be removed as soon as possible after all premises have been connected to the new underground network.
Q: Is street lighting a part of the program?
A: New streetlights will be installed and switched on in stages. Their location will be designed to confirm as closely as possible to the relevant Australian standard.
Q: What towns will be completed in this project?
A: Karratha, South Hedland, Onslow and the remaining overhead network in Roebourne
Q: What order will the work be carried out across these towns?
A: The project commenced in Karratha in October 2010 and in January 2012 in South Hedland. Karratha is more than 25 percent completed; however, recently, Horizon Power was advised by the contractor appointed to carry out work in Karratha that they were demobilising from the project. Horizon Power’s management team in Karratha, led by Regional Manager Nick Lockwood, has formed a team of specialists and engaged the services of experienced Western Power personnel and other contractors to work collaboratively to minimise the disruption to customers. Horizon Power has inspected all open work sites and will recommence the project in Millars Well commencing May 7, 2012. Discussions with a second contractor to recommence work in Bulgarra are ongoing and work will start as soon as possible.
Q: How will public safety be ensured throughout the life of the project?
A: Horizon Power 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 (08) 9159 7250.
Q: What does a voltage upgrade mean to the people of Karratha?
A: Currently, the amount of power available in Karratha is limited to the size of the lines that carry it. When the power is put underground, the new power cables will have double the carrying capacity, allowing for thousands of new residences in Karratha. This upgrade will only affect the high voltage; it won’t have any impact on current properties. You will still receive your power to your house at 240 volts, meaning that you won’t have to change any of your electrical equipment.
Q: How many times will contractors need to enter my property?
A: Horizon Power and its contractors will visit your property at the beginning of works commencing in your immediate area to determine the nature and extent of the works required to underground your power. Every property will require different works, and it will depend on your properties individual circumstances.
A new underground cable will be installed from the front boundary to the meter box of your premises. An underground cable will also be installed under the street verge along your street. The work to install the new cable from the front boundary to your meter box may require entry to your house, particularly if your switchboard is located inside.
You will be notified when work is about to start in your immediate area with a notice in your letterbox. The contractor will also issue a notice when commencing work on your property and will notify you if internal access is required to undertake any work.
You will always be given at least three working days notice before any power outage is to occur and the power outage will only last up to four hours at any one time.
Any specific works questions can be directed to the local Karratha Horizon Power office on 9159 7253.
Q: What if I refuse to let contractors into my property?
A: Horizon Power's contractors will always try to arrange access at a time that is convenient to you and will knock before commencing work on your property.
Horizon Power's contractors, as authorised agents of Horizon Power, do have a right of entry under the Energy Operators Powers Act 1979. This provides for right of access to read the meter and other tasks as required to maintain the electrical infrastructure at the property.
Q: Will my property be damaged by this work?
A: Significant care will be taken to minimise damage to your property. All verges and work areas are photographed before work commences so they can be reinstated to a similar standard after the work takes place
Q: When will the switch to underground power take place?
A: To date, 122 properties in Karratha are already connected to underground power as a result of this project. As the work will take place in stages, so too will the changeover to underground power be staged.
You will be advised in writing at least three days before the changeover takes place, as a power outage of up to four hours will be needed in order for this to occur.
Q: Will you be digging up the roads?
A: 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.
Q: Will my power be switched off because of the project?
A: Yes, there will be a requirement to turn the power off to your property at some stage of the project.
Horizon Power and its contractors will endeavour to plan the outage time and duration so as to cause the least possible disturbances to householders. You will however get at least three working days notice before your power is turned off, and it will only be switched off for up to four hours at a time to minimise the inconvenience to you.
Q: How does the work take place?
A: Detailed newsletters will be delivered to every household before work commenced in the immediate area. These newsletters will explain the work in more detail.
In summary the works will occur in four stages: (1) prepare (2) construct (3) change and (4) complete. Each stage will see different types of work taking place.
In the prepare stage the contractor will be walking in your area assessing the work that needs to occur and taking photos of the work areas.
In the construct stage most of the construction work will occur, including the installation of street and property services (underground cables), and some work on your property to ensure it is ready for the changeover.
In the change stage, your overhead power is turned off and switched to underground power.
In the complete stage the final touches will take place including the removal of old power lines and the installation of new streetlights.
A detailed explanation of each stage is provided on the PUPP section of the Horizon Power website, www.horizonpower.com.au. Notices will be delivered to your letterbox at the start of each stage.
Q: Is it possible I could dig underground and electrocute myself?
A: Prior to digging it is essential that you determine the location of any power lines or other utilities that may be on your property. Contact Dial Before You Dig on 1100 to find out the location of any power, water or communications services.
Q: Who do I call if I have any problems or questions?
A: As the operator of the project, your initial point of call will be to Horizon Power on (08) 9159 7250. As a key partner in the project, the Shire of Roebourne will also be a contact point on rating questions and can be contacted on (08) 9186 8555. Media enquries should be directed to Horizon Power on 0428 979 283.
You will receive a letter in the mail when works in your immediate area are about to commence, which will provide you more specific information about who to talk to if you have any issues.