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A method for optimal planning of radial distribution networks is presented in detail based upon a combination of the steepest descent and the simulated annealing approaches. The object of investigation is the complete network of available routes and the optimization goal is to find the routes that provide the minimal total annual cost. The minimum capital cost oriented solution created by applying the steepest descent approach is used as the initial solution for the optimization procedure that is further improved by simulated annealing to obtain the minimum total cost solution. The method takes into account the capital recovery, energy loss and undelivered energy costs.