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Frequently Asked Questions Rights of Way

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How can trees affect my power?

Trees can affect power in a number of different ways. Service reliability can be affected by trees, either at the precise location where a tree may contact a line, at other locations on that line or at other locations on the interconnected electric grid. Fallen trees can interrupt power to many customers. In a worst case scenario, a tree can tear down the entire line and break the poles that hold the line in place.

It’s not necessary for a tree to tear down a line to disrupt power. A tree or even a limb can fall across two of the wires on the pole and create a path for the electricity to flow. When this happens, protective equipment will generally de-energize the line. Electrical blinks and flickers may be experienced if intermittent, short duration contacts are made with the line. The blinks and flickers may be caused by high growing brush or vines as well as trees. If you have concerns about trees or vines growing near power lines, please contact Duke Energy. A customer service representative will be happy to assist you.

Are there safety issues surrounding trees and power lines?

Serious injuries or death can occur if energized lines are touched. Trees and tree limbs can tear down power lines. When trees grow close to and into the lines, there is a possibility of someone climbing a tree and making contact with an energized line. The lines are just as dangerous if touched by someone climbing in a tree as they would be if touched by someone standing on the ground.

My trees haven’t caused any power outages. Why are you cutting or pruning them?

To provide safe and reliable service, Duke Energy must remove brush and trim trees along the power lines. These practices and techniques are approved by nationally recognized arborists. We have an obligation to provide safe, reliable electricity. Our ability to provide reliable electric service is influenced by the maintenance of trees and brush around power lines.

The development of an Integrated Vegetation Management Program allows us to evaluate power line areas and determine the best method for maintaining reliable service from the poles and lines. The objective of the Integrated Vegetation Management Program is to maintain the lines, before the trees and brush are close enough to cause outages, in a manner that is consistent with good arboricultural practices.

When tree workers are clearing the lines in an area, keep in mind they are helping us provide you with safe, reliable power in a way that minimizes any adverse effects to the health of your trees.

Are trees trimmed or removed for the installation of new electric lines?

We evaluate the best line routes with the least impact to the environment. Typically, in this part of the country, any route that is chosen involves a conflict with trees. We prune and cut down the necessary trees and vegetation in order to properly install poles and lines.

Will I be notified before a tree crew comes to cut trees in my yard/neighborhood?

Door hangers containing an informational brochure and a letter identifying the work to be performed in the area are left on each customer’s door at least three days before the crews arrive for scheduled pruning in the area. This process applies to the routine maintenance work that is pre-planned and scheduled. In emergency situations or in follow-ups related to outages that cannot be planned ahead of time, we are unable to give prior notification.

Does Duke Energy trim or remove trees other than those near power lines?

We are only involved with the maintenance and removal of trees and other vegetation that might endanger the safe and reliable operation of poles and lines for the delivery of electricity.

When is the best time to prune trees?

Most arborists advise that if you are not severely pruning a tree, it can be pruned any time of year. Certified arborists recommend that it is more important to make the proper cuts and follow sound arboricultural practices than to limit pruning to just a certain time of year.

How does Duke Energy decide when to prune or is this just a random selection?

We have a routine maintenance program for trees and brush growth around power lines. In cases where tree conditions are worse, one line may be maintained more often than another. If a particular line is not currently scheduled for maintenance, but begins to show an unacceptable number of tree related outages, it might be maintained sooner than originally anticipated.

How often does Duke Energy trim trees in my area?

Duke Energy Carolinas does not use a set timetable for tree pruning and removal.  Instead, the company uses specific circuit information, reliability data, and other indicators to prioritize the lines for tree pruning and removal.

How much will be cut from my trees?

Each tree is different and must be considered individually. Trees with trunks close to the power lines require much heavier pruning than trees located farther from the line. Some techniques that are appropriate on hardwood trees cannot be used on some soft-wooded species.

When pruning operations are performed, our trimming experts make every attempt to trim sufficient clearance so that the tree will remain safe until we return on our next routine maintenance cycle.

Does Duke Energy “round-over” and/or “shape” trees?

We do not “round” trees over because it’s not good for the health of your trees. We subscribe to a method of pruning called lateral and directional pruning. These methods are endorsed by many in the tree-care industry as being the best pruning technique for the health of the tree.

The basis for lateral pruning is that each limb removed from a tree is removed either where it joins another limb or at the trunk. This procedure is different than the philosophy of “rounding” trees over in which limbs are cut at arbitrary points normally leaving unhealthy “stub” cuts. Directional pruning involves cutting a limb back to another limb (or lateral) so that future growth of the resulting limb is directed away from the power lines. With directional pruning techniques, tree growth causes minimal impact to public safety and electrical service.

If one of your local tree companies has Certified Arborists on staff, ask them about healthy pruning techniques for trees.

When is it necessary to remove trees instead of pruning them away from the power lines?

Normally, when trees are dead or unhealthy, we will discuss with you the possibility of removing the tree(s). A tree may have a decayed portion of the trunk; the entire tree may be dead or in the process of dying which might cause it to break or fall. It may have soil that is severely eroded away from the root system such that it is more likely to fall. Sometimes large growing trees are so close to the lines, and will have to be pruned so severely, that it becomes necessary to take the tree(s) down.

Are the tree trimmers trained and professional?

It is important that each tree professional working for Duke Energy be trained in proper techniques and safety. Extensive training is provided by the contractors. We also have certified arborists on our staff who oversee all facets of our vegetation management programs.

Who trims tree limbs that interfere with the light levels or pattern of light from streetlights?

Over time, tree growth may begin to interfere with your desired light pattern. During our routine circuit pruning cycle, Duke Energy will address any vegetation that may damage the actual light fixture or the conductors feeding it. It is your responsibility to maintain (or have maintained) the growth of any trees interfering with the lighting pattern. Occasionally, a property owner will make the decision to conduct trimming or removals on their own or hire a third party. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by qualified professionals. Serious injuries, and even fatalities, have occurred when unqualified individuals perform this type of work without the assistance of qualified professionals. As stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) standards and ANSI Z133.1, an unqualified person should not work within 10 feet of overhead energized conductors with voltages below 50,000 volts. The distance increases with voltage for all voltages equal to or higher than 50,000 volts.

Does Duke Energy prune trees around service conductors and outdoor lighting?

A service conductor is a lower voltage line that typically goes from the transformer to the delivery point (the meter) or to serve a Duke-owned outdoor light. Duke will maintain service conductors and street light conductors such that obvious line-damaging limbs will be removed. Line-damaging limbs include those that are lying on, or rubbing against, the conductor. Unless tree limbs are very close to (within a few inches) of the service line, or in contact with the conductor, the property owner is responsible for trimming or cutting down trees near service lines.

Is there a charge for trimming trees on my property?

Tree trimming is a part of our responsibility to ensure safe, reliable electric service to you. The cost of managing the natural growth around power lines is a part of the rates approved by the utility commissions in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Can I trim trees myself?

Occasionally, a property owner will make the decision to conduct trimming or removals on their own or hire a third party. Pruning trees around power lines should only be attempted by qualified professionals. Serious injuries, and even fatalities, have occurred when unqualified individuals perform this type of work without the assistance of qualified professionals. As stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) standards and ANSI Z133.1, an unqualified person should not work within 10 feet of overhead energized conductors with voltages below 50,000 volts. The distance increases with voltage for all voltages equal to or higher than 50,000 volts.

How do you decide whether to use herbicides on trees or just prune them?

In the Carolinas, selective herbicide treatments are performed on vegetation when it is still low growing. A follow-up treatment is applied in order to control any of the brush that might have been missed on the initial treatment. This will allow the compatible vegetation to effectively grow in the rights of way.  By encouraging this compatible vegetation, Duke Energy can actually decrease the extent of vegetation removal that may normally be required in future years.

Herbicide treatments are selectively applied across the width of the rights of way. Tree pruning occurs on trees along the sides. Any mature trees found within the rights of way are also either removed or pruned.

What types of herbicides does Duke Energy use?

The herbicides used by Duke Energy are some of the same products you may use to control vegetation around your home.  Trained and professional maintenance crews use backpack sprayers to selectively apply the product to manage plant growth in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. All products used by Duke Energy are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and appropriate state agencies.  For more details on the herbicides used to spray brush in the Carolinas and links to the labels and Manufacturing Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each herbicide, click here.

What types of trees and/or plants should be planted near transformers and power lines?

When do I need to contact Duke Energy about working around power lines (landscaping, house painting, etc)?

Effective October 1, 1996 in North Carolina, the Overhead High-Voltage Line Safety Act requires anyone working or lifting within 10 feet of overhead power lines or poles to contact the appropriate electric utility through the North Carolina One-Call Center at 8-1-1 or 1-800-632-4949.

A statute does not exist in South Carolina, but we recommend that you take the same precaution by contacting customer service at 1-800-777-9898. For assistance in locating and marking underground utility lines, call 8-1-1 or:

North Carolina
One Call Center
1-800-632-4949
South Carolina
Palmetto Utility Protection Services
1-800-922-0983

Does Duke Energy provide help to a property owner to trim or remove trees away from power lines?

Pruning vegetation around power lines is an extremely hazardous job. Duke Energy discourages you from undertaking any pruning activities close to electrical equipment. If you are concerned about the growth of trees or other vegetation on or near the service lines around your house, we encourage you to contact Duke Energy, and a representative will be glad to assess the situation.

Can a licensed commercial tree trimming firm get help from Duke Energy in trimming or removing trees near power lines?

We do not encourage any untrained person to remove trees adjacent to distribution power lines or to do tree work around energized lines. We will send a representative to make evaluations on a case-by-case basis. As stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) standards and ANSI Z133.1, an unqualified person should not work within 10 feet of overhead energized conductors with voltages below 50,000 volts. The distance increases with voltage for all voltages equal to or higher than 50,000 volts.

Is Duke Energy responsible for clean-up after pruning trees?

The majority of our pruning and cutting occurs during routine line maintenance cycles. In the Carolinas, our policy is to dispose of any small limbs and brush in landscaped settings. The larger pieces of wood are cut into manageable lengths for your use. In non-landscaped sites, pruned vegetation and wood is left in place. This material will bio-degrade into its natural components. When an “Act of God” (such as lightning, ice storms, high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes) cause trees or other vegetation to fall across power lines and thus create power outages, we cut the trees and brush so poles and lines can be replaced and re-energized. Disposal of any wood, limbs or debris resulting from this type of emergency operation is the responsibility of the property owner.