Visitors who walk into my office in South Plainfield will see some pretty unusual artwork. The giant photos feature soaring vistas of tree-lined hills taken in various places in our great state. But my wall art also displays rows of towers, poles and wires that form the backbone of our electrical transmission system.
To me, our transmission infrastructure is a beautiful thing – and not just because it’s my job at PSE&G to build and maintain it. The “hardware” in my office photos – and the people who manage it – are responsible for keeping the lights on for 2.2 million families and businesses in New Jersey.
Repairing and replacing the infrastructure that keeps our state moving is a hot topic these days. Whether it’s resurrecting the need for a new tunnel to connect New Jersey and New York, replacing aging bridges or widening an overused highway, our way of life depends on a transportation system that is safe, reliable and supports economic growth. The same is true of the thousands of miles of lines, poles and other equipment that move large quantities of electricity into and throughout our state to power everything from tiny smartphone chargers to mega TVs.
At PSE&G, we’ve embarked on a long-term improvement program to replace or upgrade a significant part of our infrastructure – much of it built in the 1920s. These projects already have resulted in big upgrades to our overhead and underground transmission facilities and our switching stations, supporting the safe flow of power throughout New Jersey.
In the last two years, we have completed four of these projects mandated by PJM, the independent regional transmission organization that operates the electric grid in New Jersey and 12 other states. The projects – North Central Reliability, Burlington-Camden, Susquehanna-Roseland and Mickleton-Gloucester-Camden – all address reliability concerns identified by PJM and make sure that electricity is there when you flip a light or air conditioner switch. We continue to build our Northeast Grid Reliability project, which is scheduled to go in service later this year, and we’re on the first phase of our Bergen-Linden Corridor project.
PSE&G also is boosting the network of power lines that connect from the superhighway and bring electricity down to neighborhoods and streets, replacing transformers that were approaching the end of their useful lives. In 2015 alone, we energized 15 new stations, replaced 15 large station transformers, installed 121 miles of overhead circuits and an additional 50 plus miles of new or reconductored underground transmission circuits.
In short, in the words of one long-serving employee, “We are rewiring New Jersey.” And our customers are the beneficiaries.
Despite all this progress, there still is more to do. During the next four years, we will be investing more than $5 billion on additional transmission upgrades to ensure the reliability and resiliency of our transmission system for many years to come. Not only is this work making sure the lights will come on, it also is creating thousands of much-needed jobs here at PSE&G and in the construction trades across the state.
When I gaze at the photos in my office, they are a constant reminder of the importance of infrastructure – and the important role it plays in making New Jersey a good place in which to live and work.