Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) proposed to invest US$3.9 billion during the next 10 years to proactively protect and strengthen its electric and gas systems against increasingly frequent severe weather conditions. In a filing with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, PSE&G asked for initial funding approval of $2.6 billion during the first five years. Since some of the improvements will take more than five years to implement, the utility may seek approval to spend an additional $1.3 billion in the following five years to complete the program.

PSE&G's “Energy Strong” program would include protecting more than 40 utility installations from storm surges, strengthening distribution lines, making the electric grid smarter and thereby easier to restore customers, and modernizing the gas distribution system.

“PSE&G has been recognized repeatedly for providing safe, highly reliable service,” said Ralph Izzo, PSE&G chairman and CEO. “But reliability is no longer enough; we must also focus on the resiliency of our systems to withstand natural disasters.

“It's clear that Sandy, Hurricane Irene and the October ice storm in 2011 represent extreme weather patterns that have become commonplace,” Izzo said. “It's equally clear that how we live and do business is so dependent on energy that any outage is hard to tolerate. Sandy was a defining event for all of us; the state's entire energy infrastructure needs to be rethought in light of weather conditions that many predict will continue to occur.”

“PSE&G is responding to Sandy with a program that looks to the future with investments that would better protect homes and businesses when the next storm hits, while also improving day-to-day reliability,” added Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and COO.

During Sandy, 2 million of PSE&G's 2.2 million electric customers lost power due to damaged switching and substations, damaged poles and electrical equipment, and downed trees that brought down wires. With the protections outlined in the filing in place, about 800,000 of those affected by a storm like Sandy would have remained with power, and restoration times for the rest would be reduced.

A new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) warns that the failure to make adequate infrastructure investments in the U.S. electric grid could significantly affect business productivity, employment and competitiveness. ASCE finds that by 2020, closing the investment gap in our electrical grid would save American businesses $126 billion, prevent the loss of 529,000 jobs and avert $656 billion in personal income losses.

“The cost of inaction is too high,” Izzo said. “We have a choice: continue to make incremental improvements and repairs to our electric and gas systems as we have always done. Or, we can be truly forward-looking and make more substantial investments that will help our state be better prepared for the next Irene, Sandy or other catastrophic event.”

PSE&G outlined key provisions for its 10-year plan:

  • $1.7 billion to raise, relocate or protect all switching and substations affected by recent storms as well as those in newly designated flood zones

  • $1.04 billion to replace and modernize 750 miles (1,207 km) of low-pressure cast-iron gas mains in or near flood areas

  • $454 million to deploy smart grid technologies to better monitor system operations to increase our ability to deploy repair teams more swiftly

  • $215 million to improve pole distribution systems

  • $200 million to create redundancy in the system, reducing outages when damage occurs

  • $60 million to move 20 miles (32 km) of overhead distribution lines underground

  • $140 million to protect natural gas metering stations and a liquefied natural gas station affected by Sandy or located in flood zones.

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