US-based utility Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) plans to invest $3.9bn during the next ten years, to fortify and protect its electric and gas systems from severe weather conditions in the country.
The company has requested initial funding approval of $2.6bn from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) for the first five years.
As some modifications may take more than five years to implement, the utility is likely to seek approval for an additional $1.3bn from the NJBPU in the following five years, to complete the programme.
The ‘Energy Strong’ programme of PSE&G includes protecting over 40 utility installations from storms, fortifying transmission lines, making the electric grid smarter and modernising the gas distribution system in the country.
The latest proposal is estimated to create 5,800 direct and indirect jobs, as well as provide economic benefits to the US state of New Jersey, without affecting customers’ monthly bills.
Public Service Electric and Gas Company chairman and chief executive Ralph Izzo highlighted that the utility has been providing "safe, highly reliable service".
"But reliability is no longer enough; we must also focus on the resiliency of our systems to withstand natural disasters," Izzo added.
"It’s clear that Sandy, Hurricane Irene and the October ice storm in 2011 represent extreme weather patterns that have become commonplace.
"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."
Commenting on the investment plans, PSE&G president and COO Ralph LaRossa stated: "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."
LaRossa also noted that it is the "right time" to make investments, without raising bills, as gas prices are low and the utility is retiring some transitional charges.
The utility estimates that in 2018, a typical annual residential electric bill will be around 5% lower than it was in 2008 and a typical gas bill will be approximately 35% lower – even with the proposed additional spending – and still below the rate of inflation.
Image: A PSE&G worker cleans equipment damaged by Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge at the Madison Substation in Hoboken. Photo courtesy of PSE&G.