The storms at the beginning of the month were a reminder that the summer season is also storm season. The warmer weather we love also brings higher humidity, which leads to warm, moist air rising into the atmosphere where it can easily form a thunderstorm. This year, with so many homes serving as makeshift offices and classrooms and more families opting for staycations, being prepared to keep the lights and air conditioning on is critical.
It’s why I see beauty when I look at the Metuchen-Trenton-Burlington transmission line. When structural engineers look at a bridge, they see its steel structure defying gravity, making it possible for people to drive to the Jersey Shore. When my teammates at PSE&G and I look at a power line like MTB, we “see” electrons moving through it so our customers can stay cool and – I hope – get to watch a Giants’ game.
Last month, the second of the MTB’s three segments went in operation, 18 months ahead of schedule. The remaining segment will be completed by next June. MTB will also improve 17 electric stations along its 52-mile route, making our system even more reliable. Since last summer, we have invested more than $1.7 billion to make our electrical network more dependable and another $720 million to make our gas system more reliable.
In addition to several large transmission projects, through our Energy Strong program, we are working to raise and protect equipment at 16 stations in flood zones and fortify vulnerable circuits with sturdier poles and cables that are more resistant to tree and limb damage. We continue to expand our 69,000-volt network, replacing aging power lines with state-of-the-art equipment. We also have upgraded 205 circuits that serve more than 320,000 customers across the state.
In addition to making our systems stronger, we also are making them smarter. These new power lines and updated stations are part of an increasingly sophisticated grid that is responsive to issues in real time. The new equipment will have smart sensors and relays that can identify a developing problem and redirect the flow of electricity automatically to eliminate an outage and keep customers’ power on.
We’re being smarter, too. Our team continually refines our safety and operational protocols to ensure the highest possible level of reliability for our customers. For example, we were able to continue construction work to make improvements to our systems during the COVID-19 pandemic by adhering to strict safety practices that protect our workers and customers. Our initial pandemic preparations produced programs and procedures that were widely adopted by our peers as best practices, including observing safe physical distancing, placing strict limits on sharing equipment, tools and machinery, and implementing comprehensive sanitization and hygiene practices. Finally, we have separated our workforce into smaller teams and established remote reporting locations to limit the number of employees in one place.
We have applied that same rigor in preparing for the summer storm season. Throughout the year, we conduct hurricane and storm drills, refresh our emergency summer operating plans, perform a peak reliability analysis, use helicopters to inspect transmission circuits and ensure our inventories of spare transformer, poles and other supplies are adequate to meet any emergency.
That level of preparation enables PSE&G customers’ power to stay on more than 99% of the time. I’m fortunate to be part of a team that works every day to get that last 1%.