PPL Electric Utilities (Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S.) plans more than US$450 million in capital investments in 2011 in its T&D system to improve reliability, strengthen its aging infrastructure and upgrade facilities in certain areas due to increased demand. The investments also include facilities to serve new customers and technology upgrades to support improved electric operations and customer service.

The funding for 2011 capital improvements is about 7% more than last year and 35% more than in 2009. The largest portion of the 2011 capital program — $130 million — is allocated to transmission, substation and distribution projects needed to provide distribution capacity to meet increased electric usage in certain areas across the service area. Plans include about 36 transmission and substation projects and 60 distribution system improvements to benefit local customers. The largest is a new Copperstone transmission substation in central Dauphin County, a two-year $18.5 million project.

An additional $80 million is set aside for the company's modernization program, which includes:

  • Replacing five transmission lines on the company's transmission system over the next four years

  • Proactively replacing 400 transmission poles and towers.

  • Replacing 100 older bulk power circuit breakers, and transformers and other critical components at substations

  • Reinforcing underground manholes, vaults, utility poles, cable and other distribution equipment across the system.

These planned improvements are designed to proactively replace key parts of the electric system based on age, condition and system performance (an increasing share of the utility's electrical equipment is nearing the end of its expected life).

Other aspects of the 2011 capital program include: $60 million for facilities to serve new residential, commercial and industrial customers, such as extending distribution lines or installing new circuits, $29 million for company facilities, including a new operations and data center to be built in the Lehigh Valley; and $23 million for technology, such as a new work and asset management system, upgrades to the customer information management system, automated metering and smart meter initiatives, and several customer communications initiatives.

Also, the plan includes the multiyear PPL smart grid project that has received federal stimulus grant support. Focused initially in Dauphin and Cumberland counties, the $38 million project deploys technology that will improve operations, increase electric reliability for customers, boost power quality and enhance energy-efficiency efforts, and support distributed generation and other advancements.

It also includes a new distribution management system that will benefit the entire PPL service area, as well as a dedicated and secure, high-speed communications network that supports deployment of distribution automation around the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Visit www.pplelectric.com.