PECO in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has allocated an additional 13 percent, or nearly $50 million, in its annual capital investment plan this year for its regional electric and natural gas delivery operations. The total capital plan in 2008 calls for $394 million, the majority of which is set aside for system upgrades and expansion to meet increased demand, new residential and commercial business, and improve service reliability.

President and Chief Executive Officer Denis O’Brien said PECO’s utility business is capital intensive and requires significant investments for the transmission and distribution facilities. More than half of the projected capital spending supports infrastructure improvements to address increased electric and gas usage and new business, while the remainder funds upgrades for improved system performance and modernization, reliability, and new technology. The capital plan also covers relocation of utility facilities for highway and other public projects and regulatory compliance.

“We invest heavily in our business each year as necessary to ensure we can meet the needs of our customers and improve the quality of service this year and in the future,” said O’Brien.

The increased capital funding is primarily attributable to projects to expand electric and gas capacity in growing areas of the service area, including new substations serving South Philadelphia and the University City section and expansion at substations in Newlinville, Chester County, and Upper Providence, Montgomery County, as well as modernization of three-interconnected networks serving Center City residential and small commercial customers. The company also plans to add mobile dispatch technology and distribution automation on 25 distribution circuits, mainly in the suburbs, to improve reliability.

In addition to the capital plan, PECO has allocated $35 million this year for its vegetation management program, which involves clearing trees along 3,000 miles of overhead distribution and transmission lines each year to prevent tree contact and reduce tree-related outages. Trees were found to be the cause of 30 percent of all service interruptions last year.