PSE&G Wants $4 Billion to Bring Power Grid Into 21st Century

February 21, 2013 – In The News
NJ Spotlight

New Jersey Public Service Electric & Gas has proposed a $4 billion investment to help modernize the power grid to avert widespread outages, similar to those that occurred during Hurricane Sandy. The proposal is likely to kindle a fiery debate over how the state should respond to Sandy and at what cost to consumers.

The filing comes at a time when the state’s utilities are under enormous pressure to reduce long outages caused by extreme weather, while the Christie administration is struggling to find ways to reduce energy bills, which typically rank among the highest in the nation.

PSE&G argues that with natural gas prices at historic lows and surcharges related to the deregulation of the energy industry in New Jersey lapsing in the next few years, it's possible to ramp up the resiliency of the power grid without spiking residential customers’ bills.

“If you think a $4 billion filing will not affect ratepayers, then you believe in fairy dust,’’ said Stephen Goldenberg, an attorney for the New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition, a group that could be burdened by big increases in their electric bills if the filing is approved. Goldenberg noted he has yet to review the filing.

PSE&G’s filing calls for a big chunk of change ($1.7 billion) to raise, relocate, or protect 40 switching stations or substations affected by the recent storms. Its proposal also calls for sizable spending to modernize low-pressure gas mains; deploy smart-grid technologies (not smart meters) to more rapidly respond to power outages; and invest in systems that improve redundancy in the power grid to avert outages.

If the filing is approved, the utility said it would create 5,800 new jobs. Its proposal has won approval from labor unions, the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, and other business interests.