GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – The City of Greenville and Duke Energy will provide more money to help homeowners bury their power lines.

It’s a move they hope will decrease your chances of losing power during a bad storm.

It’s that time of year, when severe weather is known to pound down on the Upstate.

“This is a very important topic as we move into the winter months. Many of you know, sometimes during January, February, we have our worst winter seasons, and that’s where we have events where we lose power, have lots of trees down–everything that comes about because of our winter weather,” said Shannon Lavrin, Assistant City Manager, for the City of Greenville. “We do get a lot of ice, and so we want to talk about the importance of undergrounding.”

You may remember a major ice storm nearly 17 years ago.

“Winter storm of 2005 was a devastating ice event that we had,” said Clint Link, Director of Engineering Services with the City of Greenville. “Some people were without power for a couple of weeks,” he said.

It’s one reason why the city started an initiative back in 2010 to help take overhead utility lines and place them underground.

“Originally, the program was branded as, ‘Weather the Storm,’ and that’s what we’ve been operating under,” Link said. “We’ve had lots of good success with this program. I think since 2010, we’ve had close to 5,000 applications made, and we’ve seen some good results.”

The current subsidy, since the program began, is $1,500 toward the cost of undergrounding split between Greenville and Duke Energy.

“Duke typically hires the contractors to do the work, and it would be paid to Duke Energy to pay the contractors,” Link said.

Link said they made a recommendation to double that to $3,000.

Now, after a vote on Monday night, Greenville City Council has approved doubling that funding, up to $3,000 per a house.

Credit: City of Greenville

The new program is called, “Power On, Bury the Last Line.”

City staff said for some, it would be free or barely a cost for some residents.

“Duke has done a lot of assessments over the years of estimating cost for these projects. Again, every house is a little different,” Link said. “The average cost that Duke has determined is just above $2,900, so we feel like the $3,000 is a good amount to increase that subsidy to.”

If the total cost of the conversion exceeds the $3,000 subsidy, the homeowner must pay the remaining balance in advance before work begins, the city said.

Link said with the cost for construction increasing lately, they hope this will help lift the burden for residents.

“We’ve, of course, seen construction costs increasing, particularly over the last few years such that participation in the program has kind of dropped off a little bit,” Link explained. “It’s not where we want it to be, so we’re looking for opportunities to basically increase the amount we’re putting towards the residential program – towards that subsidy amount – but also giving it kind of a new name.”

So, how do you participate?

“Basically, it starts with making an application to the city. You can find out this information on our website,” Link said. “You would make a request, submit an application of the location you’re interested in, to the city. The city would take that request, coordinate it with Duke Energy, and really that starts the process.”

City officials said by burying the lines between the power pole and the meter on your house, it reduces time for restoration if you do lose power, or the chance of losing it all together.

“Really, where we see power outages associated with typically with trees falling down, limbs falling down or when we have ice events during the cold weather months, of lines freezing over or causing trees to fall down, so really what we’re trying to do is improve reliability of people’s power,” Link said.

“When those lines are underground, they’re not susceptible to trees falling, or the ice hanging on the power lines. So, it’s really just keeping people’s power on in their house,” Link said.

To learn more about the Power On Program, and how to get started, click here.

In addition to this project, the City of Greenville is looking to put in more underground lines along commercial corridors.