Last month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined PSE&G President and COO Ralph LaRossa at a Hackensack substation to highlight the infrastructure investments made since Superstorm Sandy left millions of people without power in the state four years ago. Two-thirds of the equipment at the substation, which flooded during Sandy, has been raised 4.5 feet, and the remaining switchgear will be raised in the spring, ensuring more reliable service during future storms.
"Sandy was the second-worst natural disaster in American history that shook the lives of just about everyone," Governor Christie said. "Unseen before in modern New Jersey, this superstorm interrupted 71 percent of New Jersey's electric distribution system, cut power for 2.8 million residential and commercial customers and taught us difficult lessons about energy reliability and utility infrastructure. Over the last four years, under my administration, PSE&G has made significant progress raising and rebuilding switching and substations like Hackensack, as well as making other improvements, to increase the resiliency of New Jersey's infrastructure and create a distribution grid that is far stronger and smarter than before."
During Sandy, 2 million of PSE&G's 2.2 million electric customers lost power. "Hackensack is one of 29 switching and substations that are being raised or rebuilt to make them more resilient against storms," LaRossa said. "Because of our infrastructure investments to date, if a Sandy-like storm were to occur today, about 225,000 customers impacted by flooded substations and switching stations during Sandy would not lose power. And customers who did lose power would be restored more quickly. We appreciate the support of the Governor and the BPU in getting this program started."
LaRossa added, "This work is also benefitting New Jersey's economy by creating thousands of jobs over the life of the program."
The newly fortified stations are part of PSE&G's $1.2 billion, multi-year Energy Strong program to make its infrastructure more reliable and resilient to severe weather. When the Energy Strong upgrades are complete, 460,000 PSE&G customers previously impacted would not lose power from flooding and all PSE&G electric customers would experience faster restoration times.
"When our Energy Strong program is complete, more than 250 hospitals and other critical customers who lost power during Sandy would either stay in service or have their restoration time greatly reduced," said LaRossa.
Since Superstorm Sandy, PSE&G has invested $74 million in technology to reduce the number and duration of outages for hospitals and other critical customers. For example, when the Somerset Medical Center in Somerville experienced an outage during bad weather last year, the new technology enabled technicians to remotely switch them back into service in just 10 minutes – one-fifth of the time it would have taken without the upgrade. Also benefiting from this work are 400,000 customers and businesses in close proximity to critical customers where the technology has been installed.
In addition to Energy Strong electric upgrades, PSE&G has made great strides ensuring a more reliable and resilient natural gas system during flooding. The utility has installed 240 miles of new, sturdy and durable plastic natural gas pipes in flood-prone areas. Approximately 90,000 customers served by those pipes are no longer at risk of losing gas service from floodwaters seeping into these previously leak-prone mains. In addition, the danger of leaks of methane gas has been virtually eliminated in the new pipes.
The Energy Strong programs also provide the capability to remotely restore large numbers of customers. The program gives PSE&G the ability to remotely make changes on the circuits so they can be worked safely in the field, significantly improving crew productivity and restoration times.