After Superstorm Sandy devastated portions of New Jersey nearly six years ago, PSE&G received approval for major upgrades to its electric and gas systems to make them more resilient to this kind of severe storm. Since 2014, under our Energy Strong program, we have raised or eliminated 26 electrical switching and substations, replaced 240 miles of low-pressure gas pipes in flood-prone areas and reinforced electrical pathways that serve critical customers such as hospitals, waste water treatment facilities and pumping stations, among others.
Here’s the good news: We don’t have to wait for another storm the likes of Sandy to prove the value of these investments in our infrastructure.
On May 29, the remnants from sub-tropical storm Alberto swept through southern New Jersey and dumped several inches of rain. Soon, the property that contains our Ewing Township substation experienced flooding that would have either caused some of the equipment to be under water or warrant a proactive shutdown to prevent damage.
Yet none of that occurred – and not one customer lost power because of this flooding.
That’s because in 2017, we installed new electrical equipment approximately 5 feet higher than the old equipment to comply with revised Federal Emergency Management Agency flood guidelines. So while the old equipment still on the property sat under water, the new switchgear was high, dry and working just fine – keeping the lights on for the 4,475 customers the station directly serves.
On Aug. 11, heavy rainfall from a similar storm swamped neighborhoods in Passaic County’s Little Falls and Totowa, as well as other nearby communities, causing significant damage to homes and properties. Some residents said their homes had never flooded before. Many lost everything – and it was sad to see piles of waterlogged belongings lining the streets when the water receded.
For safety’s sake, PSE&G technicians proactively turned off natural gas service to affected homes until damaged water heaters and furnaces could be replaced and inspected. Yet, despite the flooding, no water infiltrated our gas mains as it had during Sandy.
Under our Gas System Modernization Program, or GSMP, PSE&G is on track to upgrade about 450 miles of aging, high-risk pipes by year end. That work included replacing 22,000 feet of gas main in Totowa and gas service lines to 1,300 homes. In Little Falls, we upgraded 14,000 feet of gas main and 250 service lines.
Replacing low-pressure cast-iron pipes with high-pressure plastic mains prevented water from getting into these pipes and causing widespread gas outages. Had this recent flooding taken place before the GSMP upgrades, many more homes would have been without gas for an extended period.
These examples show that the improvements are having an impact. They are making our electric and gas systems stronger and safer, more reliable and resilient. And PSE&G is committed to doing more.
In May, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved a second phase of the Gas System Modernization Program so that we can continue the pace of gas pipe replacement. Under the extension, we will upgrade another 875 miles of older cast-iron and unprotected steel pipes and services during the next five years. Replacing old pipe will reduce leaks, which not only makes the system safer and more reliable, but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And the work will provide hundreds of sustained full-time jobs and other economic benefits.
In June, we filed for the next phase of Energy Strong so that we can continue our momentum to modernize our infrastructure. If approved by the BPU, the five-year program will raise even more electric and gas equipment in flood-prone areas and upgrade aging electric and gas stations. We also would install stronger poles and wires to limit wind and tree damage, deploy more advanced technology to quicken restoration after a storm, and install additional gas pipes to distribute natural gas should there be a disruption.
Both programs – as well as our other investments in transmission, solar and energy efficiency – are continuing a 115-year-old legacy to improve how we deliver two of life’s most basic commodities. Throughout our history, we have always kept an eye on the future, striving to stay ahead of service issues and resolve them before they become serious problems.
As customer needs and weather patterns change, we must continue to make the necessary investments in the infrastructure that underpins our state’s economy and way of life. Our customers in Ewing Township, Little Falls and Totowa can attest to that.