The increasing number of devastating storms, like Sandy, is causing a reassessment of the costs and benefits of putting all power lines underground. The ballpark figure is that residential electricity bills would have to double in order to pay for all power lines to be placed underground.
www.entergy.com/2008_hurricanes/Underground-lines.pdf & www.businessweek.com/news/2012-11-05/sandy-s-blackouts-pressure-utilities-to-bury-power-lines#p2.
Time and money, and a lot of both, would be necessary for any state to put all their power lines underground. Studies concluded that it would cost Virginia $80 billion and North Carolina $41 billion to do so and would take about 25 years.
Yet, as 100-year floods and storms happen every 10 years, more people ask, would the large costs of putting power lines underground create enough benefits to make them good investments? State utility regulatory agencies should investigate and provide good answers to the question and to the problem posed by more frequent, large outages caused by storms. While it probably does not make sense to put underground all power lines, putting more underground and otherwise hardening the grid may well be prudent.
The BusinessWeek story to which I link in this post tells the story of one New Jersey Resident who has just spent more than $3,000 for a generator and $400 to run it. There is no free lunch.
Sit in the dark and suffer. Pay thousands of dollars for generators and fuels. Or pay more to harden the grid.