Weston resident, John Anderson on the bacony of his home. Photo: Graham Tidy
ActewAGL doesn't have the money to put existing overhead powerlines underground in established areas of Canberra, according to a senior manager.
Residents could pay for the underground lines themselves but it would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
ActewAGL general manager of network services Robert Atkin said the power provider didn't have the funding to put overhead lines underground simply because a resident might be upset with their visual aspect.
ActewAGL says it cannot afford to move overhead power lines underground, and is replacing some poles.
"The fact of the matter is the regulator gives us so much money to do maintenance, our standards don't allow us to underground the network," he said.
ActewAGL told The Can-berra Times last month that it would cost $15,000 to $20,000 per property to put existing power and telecommunications wires underground.
Mr Atkin was responding to Wednesday's one-man protest by Weston resident John Anderson, who was incensed taller power poles were installed in his street without consultation, marring his view and creating "visual pollution".
Mr Anderson staged a sit-in to try to stop the installation of two 11-metre poles, which were 1.5-metres taller than their replacements.
He was angry not only about the height of the poles but that other options, such as underground lines, were not explored with residents first.
Mr Atkin said consultation would have been pointless because the taller poles were the only real available option to ensure the powerlines were a safe distance from houses.
"We completely appreciate the frustration and I do appreciate this particular customer felt there should be consultation but it's not a matter we can consult on because we can't do anything other than what we've done. So consultation would have only frustrated him as well, I think," he said.
"It's the only safe option we have available and we have to do something because it is a safety issue."
ActewAGL said on Wednesday night that the poles were replaced in Leist Street "to comply with the current regulations regarding the minimum safe distance required between the roof of a house and electricity conductors".
Mr Atkin said the regulations had not changed but the distance between powerlines and homes or other assets did routinely change because of developments such as a house extension.
"We go out and do an inspection and we pick up for whatever reason that there is insufficient clearance between our overhead lines and someone else's assets, so we have to rectify that," he said.
"It may be because someone has extended their house or whatever. These are case-by-case issues."
While residents in the Weston street were informed that maintenance was to be done, exact details such as the installation of taller poles was not included.
Mr Atkin said it would be virtually unmanageable to include every detail of maintenance in every letter to every resident.
He believed with underground lines not an option, the taller poles would likely remain in the street.
"I think there's very little prospect that anything will change," he said.