The Edison Electric Institute named PSE&G the recipient of the 2022 Edison Award, the electric utility industry’s highest honor, for our industry-leading efforts to protect New Jersey communities and customers from extreme weather conditions. The announcement was made at EEI’s Annual Convention and Expo. Below learn about the innovations and upgrades which earned us this recognition.
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy became the most powerful and destructive storm ever to make landfall in New Jersey. As a result of Sandy’s fury, more than 2 million PSE&G customers lost power – nearly half of the outages were due to switching stations or substations flooded by Sandy’s historic storm surge.
In the aftermath of Sandy, we took decisive action to protect our customers from future extreme weather events. This included modernizing and strengthening our systems in 2014 after the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved an initial investment of $1.2 billion through the Energy Strong program. The investments included raising, rebuilding and eliminating substations, installing smart grid technologies and replacing 450 miles of gas lines.
While utilities across the country are now setting new records in investment to upgrade aging infrastructure and support the clean energy transition – an estimated $140 billion this year alone – PSE&G began its work a decade ago. Our ongoing efforts are providing invaluable defenses against climate change and extreme weather and contribute to our vision of powering a future where our customers use less energy, and it’s cleaner, safer and delivered more reliably than ever.
These critical investments have established a new industry standard for hardening and modernizing electrical and gas networks to meet the 21st Century challenges of extreme weather caused by climate change without raising customer bills. In fact, the average PSE&G combined residential electric and gas customer’s bill is now 20 percent lower than it was in 2008.
Through Energy Strong and other capital programs, PSE&G raised, rebuilt or eliminated 36 substations or switching stations. Nearly 3,000 pieces of highly specialized equipment were installed or upgraded to reduce outages and enable faster power restoration.
The benefits of this historic infrastructure investments were apparent when the remnants of Hurricane Ida arrived in New Jersey in September 2021, which included deadly flash floods and a rare Category 3 tornado. None of of our substations experienced service interruptions due to flooding, compared to the 29 substations that experienced service interruptions due to flooding during Sandy or Hurricane Irene in 2011.
The infrastructure improvements kept the electricity connected throughout the storm, which helped minimize Ida’s flood impacts, as customers’ sump pumps were able to keep working.
In addition, PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program (GSMP) – which is replacing 1,300 miles of aging cast-iron or unprotected steel gas infrastructure with more durable plastics – prevented many more customers from experiencing gas shut-offs due to flooding. During Ida, newly replaced gas mains experienced no water infiltration issues, and the safer, more durable plastic equipment helped maintain increased pressure in the system. A new web-based tool specifically designed for gas restoration and construction also helped assure that our crews were well-prepared and avoided widespread impact on gas infrastructure.
Hardening New Jersey’s electric and natural gas networks against extreme weather events remains a work in progress. We have made significant headway during the past decade, but there is still much work to be done to protect our customers and our energy infrastructure against the impacts of climate change. Future phases of the Energy Strong and GSMP programs are planned, and a newly proposed investment program is intended to increase ‘last mile’ reliability at the neighborhood level.
The proposed improvements include:
- Modernizing six electric substations and switching stations that have been in service for more than 50 years and replacing 40 oil circuit breakers averaging 60 years old with modern gas circuit breakers.
- Replacing underground cables, installing spacer cables, and upgrading poles and open-wire secondary lines to improve reliability.
- Investing in secondary line upgrades and capacitor bank upgrades to support the aggressive electrification of the transportation sector and distributed energy solutions such as customer-sited solar.
- Modernizing seven metering and regulating gas stations to enhance reliability and reduce potential methane emissions, and installing enhanced physical security measures.
We are also implementing multiple clean energy programs designed to reduce energy consumption and the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. These investments will help the state use 100% clean energy by 2050 and PSEG reach its Net Zero by 2030 goal while building a more resilient, reliable network. Meeting the 21st-century challenges of extreme and damaging weather is fundamental to our Powering Progress vision to power a future where people use less energy, and it’s cleaner, safer and delivered more reliably than ever.