Mar 23, 2023 - News

Burying power lines in Austin?

Icicles form on a power line.

Icicles form on a power line in Austin in early February. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Austin City Council is about to explore burying city power lines.

The big picture: A devastating February ice storm snapped tree limbs across Central Texas, toppling power lines and leaving hundreds of thousands of Austinites without power — and cold, dark and hungry.

What's happening: The council will take up a pair of resolutions on Thursday that order city staff to explore the feasibility of burying power lines.

Follow the money: Peter Lake, chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, has estimated the cost at $1 million per mile or more to bury power lines.

  • Austin Energy has more than 12,000 miles of transmission lines. That's $12 billion.

What they're saying: "With the increasing frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change, Austin must take appropriate action to ensure our infrastructure is safe, resilient, and reliable,” said Council Member Ryan Alter.

Yes, but: Our winters are actually warming — with average temperatures of 56.1°F from December through February. That's 5.9° warmer than those of winter 1970, per a new analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbers by Climate Central, a nonpartisan research and communications group.

Average winter temperatures in Austin
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

💭 Our thought bubble: If they bury the power lines, where will the grackles go?


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