Yes, we can underground lower-voltage distribution lines. However, there is cost sharing involved.
Our state regulators determine how underground lines are funded. The basic principle is cost sharing. If undergrounding is needed for technical reasons (e.g., not enough physical room to build an overhead line safely), then PSE pays for the undergrounding of the power lines and spreads the project costs over all 1.1 million customers. This helps keep costs low for all of our customers. On Bainbridge Island, around 56 percent (~177 miles) of distribution lines are already undergrounded. We also typically underground lines in new developments because the City of Bainbridge Island requires it and costs are shared by the developer.
If a jurisdiction or community wants to underground an existing overhead distribution line then there are cost sharing mechanisms in place through the Schedule 74 tariff. For example, if the City of Bainbridge Island wants lines undergrounded as part of a public improvement project, the cost is split 60/40 – PSE pays 60 percent of the costs and the local jurisdiction pays 40 percent plus trenching and restoration.
For more information, see our distribution undergrounding fact sheet.