Photo: Pakutaso
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Japanese gov't plans to remove around 4,000 km of overhead power lines

52 Comments
By Katy Kelly, SoraNews24

No matter where you travel in Japan, you’re likely to see one familiar sight wherever you go—utility poles, threaded together by thick power cables. These cables carry electricity all over the country and are much cheaper to install and reach for repairs than their underground counterparts. A country that works late into the night and begins again early the next morning needs a stable system to transport all that power to where it’s needed. But unfortunately, overhead power lines aren’t without their risks. They’re easily threatened by natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis, which can dislodge them and disrupt power service on a huge scale.

So why is Japan still using them? Well, the issue is that changing from overhead to underground power lines is no small feat, and it has an appropriately huge price tag to match. Though talk of removing power lines have increased in surrounding the Tokyo Olympics, the huge utility poles are still looming all over Japan. It takes time not only to remove the power cables themselves but also to implement new cables into an underground system that already includes a thriving network of water and gas pipes.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism has, however, announced a new plan to eliminate 4,000 kilometers of overhead power cables at sites across the nation by 2025. Their priority will be areas around roads that help to transport goods in the case of emergency situations, as well as cables along roads leading to World Heritage Sites and other popular tourist destinations. They cited improved disaster response and beautifying the landscape as the motivating factors behind the plan.

▼ Citizens often complain about the clutter of utility poles and cables alike.

KAZUKI2021007_TP_V.jpg
Photo: Pakutaso

Running counter to this is the fact that around 70,000 new utility poles are installed every year. The government assures that they will be interacting with power companies to try to bring this number down and seek out alternatives for transmitting energy across the nation.

The issue of power cables has earned much more attention in recent years, especially after a typhoon in September 2019 that left vast areas of Chiba prefecture without power. While the new plan aims to address critical areas for disaster response, citizens have criticized both the relatively small scale of the cable removal and the long window of projected time it will take to even remove that. On the other side of the debate, there are also people staunchly against the implementation of underground cables, who imply that the much greater ease of repair to overhead lines more than offsets their higher risk of being damaged in the first place. Some online comments:

“Just 4,000 kilometers? Isn’t it way too late for that? And when are they planning to start? Hurry up and get it over with already!”

“The Ministry of Finance better not get in the way of this. Heck, they should double their budget for it.”

“This is just gonna make it even harder to restore power after earthquakes or natural disasters. Stop this plan.”

“It’s not exactly encouraging to think that it’ll take five years just to get rid of 4,000 kilometers…”

For every person who complains about how ugly the overhead cables look, there is another arguing that the utility poles supporting them are important to mark streets or provide light. The ultimate fate of Japan’s overhead power cables remains in the dark for now, but we’re eager to see how what changes may happen in the next four years.

Source: NHK News Web via Otakomu

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Why does Japan have so many overhead power lines?

-- Tokyo considering removing overhead power lines in run-up to 2020 Olympics

-- Japanese researchers redesign electric car to go farther than ever before on a single charge

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

52 Comments
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One of the reasons I'd the massive impact of the 2019 megatyphoon, in Chiba, that caused a lot of high voltage (100.000V) poles to collapse. Keeping them underground is safer.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Inner city streets are already narrow enough, and these are ugly as hell. In a country with as many disasters as Japan, there is no excuse to be STILL be putting up electrical wires according to an outdated model. And what about promoting solar while you're at it?

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Since decades its underground abroad but tepco etc prefer to stay in another century to keep earning huge money.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

overhead electiric cables have a negative effect on human health aswell and what an eyesore!!

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Any and all new construction should be regulated that all power lines be placed under ground.

If there is a will, there is a way. Kokusai Street, here in Naha, used to have a literal spider web of power lines over it, but in an effort to "beautify" the area, the city too the time, and money, and buried everything!

Makes a HUGE difference!

THIS would be one public works project that I would support, instead of the bridges to nowhere!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

 These cables carry electricity all over the country and are much cheaper to install and reach for repairs than their underground counterparts

Yes. but experience has shown time and time again that buried cables have approximately 10x less faults per year and the ongoing maint costs are significanlty lower. Its only the initial installation cots which are between 2-7 times higher.

Think about all the disruptions to power which are caused by over-heignt vehicles and car accidents, storms, icing, animals etc which are eliminated by burying them. Likewise the associated costs with line inspections and maint for over grown trees.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

When I arrived in the late 1980s, this is what struck me the most - power poles with power lines. In many ways it reminded me of my first visit to India, where the poles looked more or less the same. And as a person from Europe, where we have quite strict electrical standards, protection from electric shock and so on, this struck me as literally medieval. Japan has always presented itself externally as a country that likes cleanliness, order. Today, in 2021, the situation is virtually unchanged. Still power poles with power lines, the more new developments come up, the more the cluttered tangle of wiring grows. When an old building is demolished, they usually don't bother to remove the relevant cabling, but add new cabling. To this day it is a mystery to me how anyone can figure this out. Maybe in 5 years, or another person in a month.

And the excuse about the cost of maintenance, earthquakes, etc... The cost comes out the same in the end, the advantage of undergrounding is mainly that it's not visually distracting, it's safer and easier to maintain. Yes, the cost is higher now, but after all, it is planned over some time frame, right?

I once read a book where they described the problems regarding the preparations for the Tokyo Olympics in the 1960s. Western toilets were not common in Japan at that time. Many people at the time argued that a Western toilet was more expensive to make, more expensive to install, took up more space, and used more water. A few voices at the time reportedly argued that it was like the Middle Ages - preventing disease, odor, etc. The counter-argument was that it was the way it had always been done in Japan.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Welcome to the 20th century.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

What will Godzilla walk through???

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They are ugly as sin to look at and also the poles are often placed in already too-narrow streets making them even narrower. It really makes Japan look Third World.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I could not believe when I moved here, looked out the balcony window, and saw not only power lines (some connected to actual wooden utility poles!), but TV antennas on rooftops everywhere. I mean, I guess in a country that still relies on fax machines... but still.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It's not only the power cables. The poles also carry the telephone cables, broadband cables, and cable TV, and the speaker systems used by the ward offices.

This! But they don't need to though, do they? Other methods of delivery could be used. And don't get me started on those ward office speaker systems! The noise pollution from these things is just unbelievable. I might get the axe out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And what about promoting solar while you're at it?

There are many solar power projects that have been confirmed to have Chinese and Korean intervention. It is installed by purchasing cheap land in mountainous areas and cutting down forests. Every time a typhoon passes through the area, they are blown away, causing more damage from landslides and other problems.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Except my opinion is based on knowledge and years of industrial experience from being an electrical engineer and worked in heavy industry, hospitals, major office building, power supplies and generation.

OK nice mine comes from my children's grandfather an electrical engineer, and more with 2 doctorates a former Nation university professor and worked for many years for TEPCO.

He has done all the research previously ok he is long retired but oddly he is still regularly called up to consult despite being bin his mid 90s.

Smartest man I know and that is saying a lot if you knew what my own father has and did.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Was in an earthquake near Tokyo. My car was jumping and I watched a electric pole swing from side to side. Amazing the wires did not break and fall on my auto.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good move.

Many utility poles are on the streets. It is dangerous for drivers and cyclists. All should be removed and lines underground

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Bury what you can. As for the remaining poles, take the transformers down and replace them with surveillance cameras.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting. On Saturday out in rural Saitama while I was out jogging I saw a helicopter slowly and closely following a high voltage power line. Could have been the news media or perhaps just some power company getting excited about something.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan has always presented itself externally as a country that likes cleanliness, order.

Yes, but part of that order is keeping things the same, like its school calendar, child custody laws, or hankos.

The main reason used not to put the cables underground was earthquakes this has been stated by engineers over and over again.

But that hasn't stopped Japanese engineers from digging tunnels for highways and trains/subways. I bet they could figure out how to encase power cables in flexible earthquake proof materials of some sort.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But that hasn't stopped Japanese engineers from digging tunnels for highways and trains/subways. I bet they could figure out how to encase power cables in flexible earthquake proof materials of some sort.

Oh come on, try using a better example.

A tunnel collapses and a road is closed maybe sadly some are in it, but there are other ways around.

The underground cables are cut and tens of thousands are without power multiple cables a that becomes hundreds of thousands.

Not sure if you were in Japan when the Tohoku earthquake hit but those of us that were remember the power outages and rolling blackouts for weeks now that was with most overhead power lines in order, now add in have to dig up and replace cables underground.

I wonder how many months Tokyo would be in the dark.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese gov't plans to remove around 4,000 km of overhead power lines

Plans? They have had well over 70 years to plan this. Not happening anytime this century. But then why would anyone expect anything less from the government?

> the issue is that changing from overhead to underground power lines is no small feat, and it has an appropriately huge price tag to match. Though talk of removing power lines have increased in surrounding the Tokyo Olympics, the huge utility poles are still looming all over Japan. It takes time not only to remove the power cables themselves but also to implement new cables into an underground system that already includes a thriving network of water and gas pipes.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism has, however, announced a new plan to eliminate 4,000 kilometers of overhead power cables at sites across the nation by 2025. 

Of course it takes time and money just do it little by little. Much more effective than doing, you know, NOTHING at all......

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ok Zichi.

You have your view I have mine nothing wrong with that but I have been in Japan a long time.

One of my former residences was in an area with cables underground, it looked very clean and nice, now this was not an earth but a flood and a sidewalk fire in the underground Transformers.

We had no power for nearly two weeks.

Where we are now the power lines were ripped off and several transformers burned or got knocked down.

They had temporary poles up in a day and power restored to 3 area by the next day, all the new poles and permanent cables/Transformers were installed in about 5 days.

Granted the first incident happened over 20 years ago but that was the result.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Solar is a waste of time for now.

The materials needed the low return, the need for some form of power storage, etc..just not practical.

Not so.

https://www.google.co.jp/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/apr/25/insanely-cheap-energy-how-solar-power-continues-to-shock-the-world

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Tora

Wind is a more efficient power source than solar. Compared to solar panels, wind turbines release less CO2 to the atmosphere, consume less energy, and produce more energy overall. In fact, one wind turbine can generate the same amount of electricity per kWh as about 48,704 solar panels.

You can look that one up,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi - I have to correct you upon the following statement :

"A country like the UK which set the standards for electricity has never had poles and cables."

The UK does have the rather controversial High Voltage Power Pylons and cables, but, it also has Poles & cables - especially in Countryside areas over Farmland.

https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/368410/uk-electric-pole-types

So, in this instance, sorry, though I do need to make a minor correction to one of worthy comments of today.

All the best.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi

Thanks.

I understand the road digging we are going through that now noise noise noise but it is from the road to the house I worry about especially since I have no area that is ground everything is fully covered in flat stones in cement if they have to break that up there is no way we could fix or match it.

I know it may be years away and that would be possibly worse as by that time I will possibly be ready to retire and money will be tighter.

Anyway I guess it just another wait and see situation.

Yeah the smart metre thing was a disaster ay my parents home in Canada multiple court cases class action lawsuits, etc... The customers finally won ( that included my parents) but it still doesn't look like they fixed the problem.

I hope that doesn't come here anyway we move off of TEPCO and both gas and electricity are through Tokyo gas a single bill better service slight discount.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are new wind turbines that are bladeless and just look like metal poles.

That sounds cool any links or the actual name?

I was recently watching two new types on Canada one has a central piston that is compressed when exsess power is produced this can later be used to turn the turbine if the wind is to low.

The other is similar but uses a weight exsess power sends the weight up during low wind the weight slowly drops turning the turbine.

Amazing the things that are out now that are such simple ideas but never put into use.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi, i totaly sympathise with you, it is called bad planning, the UK goverment told all of the utilities companies to lease with each other, ( i am sure some will have had a bad experience) but in general its working and cost saving as well. i will suspect there will be lots of comities rather than just getting on with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Zichi

Italy gets about half that earthquakes per year that Japan gets that is a very big difference.

Population density Japan 333 Km2 Italy 199 km2.

Rome population 2.8 million

Tokyo population 13 million

Area Rome 1267 km2 Tokyo 2,188 km2.

The logistics are very different now add in that Italy is a member of the EU with direct land access and how quickly aid can be dispatched from neighbouring EU countries VS Japan being an island nation and how aid from outside would be far more difficult ( as we have seen it the past.

Comparing the two is a bit misleading.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

And what about promoting solar while you're at it?

Solar is a waste of time for now.

The materials needed the low return, the need for some form of power storage, etc..just not practical.

Wind is far better with higher power production, and with new piston or gravity storage units built-in they can produce energy at night or when the wind is not strong enough to properly provide enough.

Piston storage: during high production but low demand a internal piston is compressed when more energy is needed the piston is released causing a turbine to turn and produce power.

Gravity storage is the same excess energy is used to raise a weight which can be dropped in low productivity times the spiral drop causing the turbine to produce power.

One wind turbine two power products capabilities and no need for battery storage.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As for earthquakes in Japan, we know they happen along faultlines, like the TEPCO plants in Fukushima and Niigata. They should have asked your grandpa.

They did, he is anti nuclear always has been, his falling out with TEPCO was over that and why he returned to teaching.

I don't care what others think you pointed out where your info came from I pointed out where mine did, as simple as that.

I am no electrical engineer or any other I am a simple artisan dyslexic ADHD and ASD so my education was not up with the rest.

My family unlike me are all highly educated, CA/CAP, AI master's, pharmaceutical doctorates, Environmental doctorates, etc.. this happens to be my family sorry if that seems to bother some, I don't claim to be any of those I only say what they have told me.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

OK nice mine comes from my children's grandfather an electrical engineer, and more with 2 doctorates a former Nation university professor and worked for many years for TEPCO.

You may not realize it, but openly stating that someone worked for TEPCO for "many years" is hardly a glowing recommendation!

I wouldnt trust TEPCO or anyone who works for it, with walking my dog!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@zichi

Do I smell envy?

He did both! But anyone with half a brain knows when it is time to put the hammer down and let the younger ones do the work while guiding them.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Tora.

Read what I wrote again.

Then look into environmental cost, not price per kilowatt.

Wind is far better and can be combined with not battery storage systems, solar produces only in the day time needing battery storage to power at night this is a simple fact.

Wind may produce less at night but can still produce ocean front wind farms produce nearly non stop.

Add in piston or gravity energy storage and wind far out paceses solar.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@zichi

I have a question, and I am honestly asking your knowledge on this.

If the cables are underground will home owners be the ones that have to pay for digging up the part on their property if something needs fixing?

Because this is how it works for gas and water all work on private property is at the homeowners expense.

Right now stringing a new cable from a electric pole cost very little ( had it done last year) but if it is underground and digging needs to be done that will take far more time and cost more, will I as a homeowner now have to pay for that?

I am asking because I honestly have no idea.

I hope not because my neighbour got a heavy bill for the gas line from the road to his house when the pipe recently leaked ( his is a very old house no idea when his gas pipe was installed but at least 40 years).

So if you have any thoughts, knowledge or idea it would be appreciated.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The main reason used not to put the cables underground was earthquakes this has been stated by engineers over and over again.

Tourism and beautification is all nice but when an earthquake hits and cables are cut making temporary emergency repairs become far more difficult when the break is underground.

This evident in a different way in parts of Canada where sudden thaw and deep freeze happen and underground cables get damaged.

Those places with overhead cables got power restored far faster as all that is required is a few cherry pickers, some cable and get to work.

Those underground (especially in freezing temperatures adds more problems) require digging up the roads once the brake is located replacing the broken section of cable pipe, pushing through new cable from the nearest junction past the broken section all the way to the next junction.

This is a far more complicated job that takes far more time and equipment.

What has happened in Canada is fairly rare and usually very local but an earthquake has the potential of damaging underground cables over a wide area simultaneously, does Japan have enough equipment to dig up dozens if not hundreds of locations at the same time and the skilled workers.

Overhead cables, cherry pickers and people capable of doing this are plenty from phone companies to electrical companies, underground work is a very different thing.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

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