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Electric & magnetic fields

Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) are produced by any appliance with electric current flowing through it. That includes not only powerlines but just about every electrical appliance used in the house.

EMFs and powerlines

EMFs from powerlines depend on the amount of current flowing along the powerlines. Fields decrease in strength the further you move away from the source. We have documented policy and procedures relating to design and installation practices and EMFs.

Prudent avoidance

We address concerns about EMF exposure by:

  • Keeping informed about engineering and scientific research on EMF exposure and reviewing its policies in the light of the most up-to-date research findings, with particular emphasis on the findings of eminent scientific review panels.
  • Actively participating in industry and other forums that have the objective of broadening scientific knowledge of the effects of EMFs.
  • Responding constructively and consistently to employee and community inquiries and referring inquirers to authoritative sources of information.
  • Practising prudent avoidance (as established by good engineering and planning practice as it is applied, or is to be applied, at our operating locations) in siting new generation, transmission and distribution facilities.
  • Undertaking monitoring and analysis of EMF levels associated with its network.
  • Prudently managing public, and our employees' and contractors' occupational exposure to EMFs associated with Ergon Energy's network.

Does undergrounding stop EMFs?

Putting powerlines underground does not stop EMFs. The earth does not shield magnetic fields. Design decisions such as using multiple phases (wires) and laying them closer together underground can help to reduce EMF levels. Importantly, similar design decisions can often be used with overhead wires to help cancel out magnetic fields.

Common sources of EMFs

The following table shows typical magnetic field strengths from a number of common sources including powerlines.

Magnetic Field SourceTypical measurement (µT)
(normal user distance)
Range of measurements (µT)
(normal user distance)
Electric stove0.60.2 - 3
Refrigerator0.20.2 - 0.5
Electrick kettle0.30.2 - 1
Toaster0.30.2 - 1
Television0.10.02 - 0.2
Personal computer0.50.2 - 2
Electric blanket20.5 - 3
Hair dryer2.51 - 7
Pedestal fan0.10.2 - 2

Source: Energy Networks Association, Australia, brochure ENA EMF Management Handbook

The following table shows typical magnetic field strengths from a number of Ergon Energy powerlines.

Magnetic Field SourceTypical measurement (µT)
(normal user distance)
Range of measurements (µT)
(normal user distance)
Distribution powerlines (measured under line)0.70.2 - 2
Distribution powerlines (measured 8 metres away)0.2 0.04 - 0.44
 33,000 volt underground cables12 (1 metre above ground, directly above buried cable) 0.3 (4 metres away)

Exposure levels

The Energy Networks Association recommends the following limits of exposure:

  • Public exposure to magnetic fields of 200 microtesla (µT)
  • Occupational exposure to magnetic fields of 1,000 microtesla (µT)
  • Public exposure to electric fields of 5 kilovolts per metre (kV/m)
  • Occupational exposure to electric fields of 10 kilovolts per metre (kV/m)

Useful links

More information on EMFs can be found on the following websites:

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