Adapting to climate change: Upgrades paying off, still more to do

In recent weeks, New Jersey has been hit by two severe storms – first by Henri and then, just two short weeks later, by Ida. Both brought high winds and flooding rains across New Jersey. The flooding caused by Ida was the worst to hit our state since Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey nine years ago.

Thankfully, far fewer customers lost power during Ida than during Sandy. That’s due in large part to the infrastructure investments that raised and rebuilt the stations that flooded during either Sandy or the earlier Hurricane Irene.

None of the 26 stations where we performed flood mitigation under our Energy Strong program experienced flood damage during either of the recent storms, and the specialized equipment we installed in our distribution system under this program helped us more quickly restore the outages that did occur. In the feature photo above, you can see the high water level in our Somerville Substation during Ida, and how the critical electric equipment, which was raised under Energy Strong, was safely above flood level.

While the increased frequency and ferocity of storms highlight the value of those improvements, customers benefit from our infrastructure work on “blue sky days,” too. This  summer, PSE&G’s electric reliability has been 77% better than it was in 2013, before we began the Energy Strong program.  

I saw firsthand the losses that Ida’s flooding inflicted on thousands of households. As heart-wrenching as it was to see families piling possessions at the curb, the damage would have been worse without the improvements we have made under Energy Strong and our Gas System Modernization Program.  

Forty-two municipalities suffered from severe flooding associated with Ida, and the 52 miles of gas mains we replaced in these areas allowed us to upgrade to high-pressure mains that reduced the likelihood of water infiltration into the system. This helped us to either maintain gas service or restore outages more quickly to approximately 8,000 customers.

The modern equipment that makes it easier for us to shut off gas and prevent emergencies also prevents methane from being released into the atmosphere. In fact, when the current phase of GSMP is completed in 2023, we expect to achieve a 21.7% reduction in methane emissions compared to 2018 levels.

Protecting New Jersey’s electric and natural gas networks against extreme weather is a work in progress. During the last decade, extreme weather has become more severe and more frequent. While we have made significant headway during the past decade, there is still much work to be done to protect our customers and our energy infrastructure against the ongoing impacts of climate change.

Adapting to the changing weather pattern is part of PSE&G’s commitment to providing our customers with the reliable service they expect. In addition to providing invaluable defenses against the impacts of climate change, our infrastructure investments also boost New Jersey’s economy, keep our businesses competitive and create thousands of good-paying jobs throughout the state. Taken together, this makes our continued investments in our infrastructure a winning proposition for our customers, our business community and the state we all call home.

Kim Hanemann, PSE&G President and Chief Operating Officer

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