Since 1970, DTE has installed its lines underground during the construction phase of all new subdivisions and other construction projects where possible. In fact, one-third of our infrastructure is underground. Relocating existing infrastructure from above ground to below ground is more complex and expensive. 

Because every neighborhood is unique, the needs of each community are considered. Both overhead and underground services have benefits and challenges that are considered when reliability work is planned.  

 Benefits of overhead 

  • Overhead is more cost effective to install. Underground wires can be up to six times more expensive than installing overhead lines (depending on the field conditions). 
  • It is faster to repair overhead equipment when outages do occur. We can quickly identify and fix damaged equipment, whereas with underground, it takes more time to identify the issues, locate the damaged equipment and go underground to fix it. 
  • Overhead power lines have a longer lifespan. Overhead lines can last 60 years, while underground wires tend to last 30 to 40 years before they need to be replaced. 

Benefits of Underground 

  • Undergrounding helps improve reliability by removing the risk of trees and branches falling into overhead lines. 
  • Burying overhead wires can increase safety by reducing wire downs and the chance of accidental contact with power lines. 
  • Underground wires are considered more aesthetically pleasing to some customers because their yard and adjacent property does not have poles and wires that can be seen. That said, even underground power still has an outside pad and transformer box that can be seen.  

Undergrounding is part of the rebuilding portion of our four-point plan to improve reliability for our customers, which also includes trimming trees, upgrading existing infrastructure and accelerating our transition to a smart grid. All this work will help bring you safer, more reliable energy. 

Learn more about reliability improvement work happening in your neighborhood at empoweringmichigan.com/reliability-improvements.