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All overhead powerlines and related infrastructure in Karratha, Roebourne and Onslow (WA) will be moved underground to improve the safety and reliability of power supplies in the Pilbara.

WA Regional Development Minister Terry Redman and Energy Minister Mike Nahan announced an additional $75 million in funding from Royalties for Regions for phase two of the Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP).

Royalties for Regions contributed $100 million in funding to the first phase of the project, which was completed in December 2013 at a cost of $130million. The first phase resulted in the complete undergrounding of electrical infrastructure in South Hedland, Wedgefield and about 60 per cent of properties in Karratha.

Mr Redman said the first phase of the project had greatly improved the amenity of the community’s streetscapes and resulted in safer and more reliable power in the Pilbara.

“This project is an example of how Royalties for Regions is transforming regional Western Australia and reflects the State Government’s continued commitment to regional economic development,” he said.

Dr Nahan said underground networks experienced fewer outages during cyclones, eliminated dangers associated with fallen powerlines and improved the aesthetic appeal of towns.

“Pilbara residents may well be used to cyclones and while undergrounding will not completely prevent any power outages during severe weather, it will greatly reduce the number of residents and businesses who lose power during cyclones,” he said.

“The benefit of the project has been apparent over the past two cyclone seasons.  When Cyclone Christine hit the Pilbara coast in December 2013, 7,000 customers lost power with the worst affected areas being Karratha, Point Samson and Roebourne.  In Port Hedland, where power had been moved underground, only 100 customers lost power due to a remaining overhead component of the network being damaged.”

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