REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 249

Revolt news 4/02/2008

1. Nick Hurd MP has introduced an amendment at the committee stage of the Housing and Regeneration Bill, to impose a duty on the new Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to consider the risks to health arising from EMFs from power lines. The HCA will be responsible for acquiring land for new housing. The amendment, considered on 17th January 2007, was intended to go some way towards the introduction of a moratorium on building new homes and schools within 60 metres of 275 kV and 400 kV powerlines. The charity Children with Leukaemia campaigns to this end. For more, and a link to the debate, see 


2. Louis Slesin of Microwave News writes 30 Jan: It's time to release the results of the Interphone project, the largest and most expensive cell phone epidemiological study ever attempted. Microwave News has learned that a completed draft of the results was completed TWO YEARS AGO. Yet, the paper has not yet been published and the participants refuse to discuss what they found. Many observers believe that the Interphone study points to a long-term risk of developing tumours. But we will not know for sure until the results are made public. Any further delay would be close to scandalous. [Shades of the Draper report?] Read the complete story at 


3. Andrew Darke, of the group PLACE, responds to news248.7 on the question of cost ratios (APPENDIX A). Quite rightly, he points out the importance of lifetime costs as the key basis for comparison. PLACE calls generally for a more environmentally sensitive approach to infrastructure design and build and in particular for undergrounding of the NG 400kV Thorpe Marsh to Stalybridge line, during its upgrade and refurbishment, where it affects the Peak District National Park. The work of PLACE can be followed at their new web site 


4. Andrew Darke also wrote to Ofgem about lifetime costs as a basis for comparing underground and overhead lines (APPENDIX B), with reference to evidence given at the Beauly-Denny inquiry last year. That letter was sent in November and a response is still keenly awaited.


5. The difference in various cost-ratios (underground to overhead), particularly between EU and UK estimates, has been highlighted before in revolt news. The matter was raised in the SAGE group, which included Ofgem, NG, SSE and others. It was agreed in SAGE that work was needed to try to reconcile those differences, but SAGE has not resumed proper work since its interim report nearly a year ago.


6. Professor Denis Henshaw appeared 31-1-08 in an 11 minute item on main Irish TV channel RTE, about the Irish grid development and health issues. The item "local rebellion over electricity pylons" is worth watching at (needs realplayer plugin)


7. In his opening remarks on RTE, Professor Henshaw said he was sure that in 20 or 30 years the link between magnetic fields and leukaemia, and other diseases, would be as well established as that between smoking and lung cancer. That view carries the authority of his unique perspective from a very broad range of scientific evidence, extending beyond that considered by official review bodies.


8. For there to be no harmful effects from powerlines, the existing very significant and widespread associations would need to be explained by some persistent and ubiquitous very significant bias or confounding. So far no such explanation has been identified. Not even a potential specific explanation has been suggested for further testing. Existing associations are already corrected for known potential confounding, and the associations are likely to have been diluted, not exaggerated, by known potential bias and misclassification. The idea of such non-causal explanations as bias and confounding, without specific evidence for them, seems like baseless wishful thinking from those wishing to deny harmful effects.


9. The latest news from Dermot Finnigan of Sale, suggests this sorry saga is descending into an even worse state of ruthlessness. He has appealed 1-2-08 to Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks: "I need your help and I need it now. National Grid are threatening to take my home and my belongings to pay for their costs for an order against me as a result of a restraining order restricting me in simply asking the Chairman and the directors for help".





APPENDIX A Response from Andrew Darke to news248.7


I continue to visit the revolt site and find it very useful. However I think the reference to undergrounding costs in item 7 of the recent newsletter being 6.2 times more expensive than OHL needs further clarification.

The PRECOGNITION BY ERNESTO ZACCONE AND SIMON ALLEN (Europacable) presented to the Public Inquiry into the Proposed Beauly to Denny 400kV Electricity Transmission Line, which I downloaded via your site and for which I am very grateful, made it abundantly clear that the use of 'whole life costing' of transmission projects puts a very different picture on ohl/ug ratios to that given by up front capital costings currently used by National Grid and Ofgem, - in the order of 5:1 - 1.8:1 as opposed to the oft quoted by NG and Ofgem, 25:1 - 10:1.

This particular matter is the subject of a letter from PLACE to Ofgem and I attach a copy of our letter (I am still trying to get a response!)

May I suggest that when figures are quoted in future you should specify whether they are 'whole life costs' or front end capital costs. If 'whole life costing' were to become the accepted accounting system it could change the whole perspective on undergrounding and probably result in much more being used.

On the matter of NG's re-cabling works through the Woodhead Tunnels in the Peak District National Park, PLACE is continuing work as an 'official' consultee for NG and more detailed news can be found on our new website  in the news section.


Best wishes,



Reply from Mike O'Carroll:


Quite right, I do agree that lifetime costs would be a better basis for comparison. The figure of 6.2 in the last news issue was of course quoted from the Austrian regulator E-Control, not one which I would necessarily support.


Apart from lifetime costs, power capacity requirements are likely to be important. When planning an overhead line, the cost of maximising the capacity (e.g. by double circuits and bigger conductors) might be relatively small compared with a lower capacity line of the same voltage. Equivalent underground cable capacity might then require more trenches and higher cost. However, if the required capacity is smaller, as in the 400kV proposals in Ireland, then the underground solution cost can be greatly moderated, and the cost ratio becomes much reduced.





APPENDIX B Letter 27-11-07 from Andrew Darke to Ofgem


Robert Hull, Director - Transmission

OFGEM, 9, Millbank

London SW1P 3GE


Dear Bob,



presented to the Public Inquiry into the

Proposed Beauly to Denny 400kV Electricity Transmission Line


I have spoken to David Hunt about the above paper which I e.mailed to you both in August. He said that there had been some discussion of its content within Ofgem and I am now writing to ask for your opinion.


The examples of cost differences between overhead, combined overhead and underground, and fully undergrounded electricity transmission systems presented in the Precognition (3:1-6:1,etc) vary greatly from those currently published by National Grid (NG)(10:1 - 25:1). Part of the reason for this is that calculations have been made using the "life cost" accounting system rather than the front end capital cost model used by NG and Ofgem. The "life cost" accounting system seems to present a fuller picture and seems to be an ultimately more accurate way of assessing the likely overall costs of any particular project. It takes into account many factors such as maintenance, efficiency of conductivity etc. over the full life of the asset.


PLACE believes the information set out in the Precognition suggests that the position adopted by Ofgem in its recent Transmission Price Control Review 2006 with regard to undergrounding is in need of a re-examination. It would be most unfortunate if major environmental improvements were to be held up, and opportunities missed, as a result of the use of an out of date accounting system.


May we ask:

1. Is the 'life cost' accounting system likely to be adopted by Ofgem and National Grid; what are its 'pros and cons' in your view? Are there reasons for not using it?

2. Would you agree that it is a more accurate method of cost analysis?

3. If 'life cost' accounting were adopted by Ofgem, would there be implications for the TPCR 2006 position on undergrounding in your view?


In relation to the project of refurbishment and upgrade which NG is about to undertake on the Thorpe Marsh to Stalybridge 400kV overhead transmission line, note that the line passes through or severely affects some 11 miles of the Peak District National Park (PDNP).


PLACE asks that Ofgem:

1. ensures NG uses the 'life cost' accounting method for the study (about to be undertaken) of a variety of options for the repair and refurbishment of the line.

2. ensures that 'life cost' accounting is used to evaluate, as part of the study, an option to underground all those parts of the line which currently affect the PDNP.


Finally, may we ask whether you agree with Lord Hinton's view expressed in May 1962 'that if the cost ratio between underground and overhead transmission could be reduced to 4:1, then he would advocate extensive undergrounding.'?

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Darke








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