The impact of Superstorm Sandy, which smashed into the New York metropolitan area on Oct. 29, 2012, is still reverberating in regional communities, especially in New Jersey. Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), New Jersey’s oldest and largest publicly owned utility, hopes to prevent future catastrophes like Sandy from disrupting service to customers.
Seventy-six municipalities and nine counties have passed resolutions endorsing PSE&G’s so-called Energy Strong proposal, which would fortify the utility’s electric and gas distribution systems against powerful storms and natural disasters. Energy Strong calls for investing $3.9 billion over 10 years, including $2.6 billion in the first five years, to protect critical facilities, install backup distribution lines and improve communications capabilities.
“We appreciate that so many community leaders have spoken out in support for our plan to make New Jersey Energy Strong,” said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and chief operating officer. “These local officials have witnessed the severe hardship of widespread, extended power outages and share our belief that action is needed now to protect utility systems.
“Recent storms have shown that day-to-day reliability is no longer enough,” LaRossa said. “We need to be able to withstand extreme weather and make our distribution systems resilient. Energy Strong would do that through extraordinary reinforcement measures.”
PSE&G’s proposal includes protecting more than 40 utility installations that were affected by storm surges, adding new backup power lines, making the electric grid smarter to help identify problems and facilitate service restoration, and strategically burying some wires.
“Energy Strong is a good investment,” said Joe DiVincenzo, Essex County executive. “It would pay for itself even if there is only one big storm over the next 40 or 50 years.”
Key provisions of PSE&G’s Energy Strong Proposal include funds to raise, relocate or protect about 90 switching and substations, deploy smart grid technologies, improve pole distribution systems, create redundancy in the system, and move 20 miles of overhead electric distribution lines underground.
The Energy Strong proposal is currently under review by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.