A Stronger, More Resilient Electrical System is a Key to Economic Growth in New Jersey

IN JUNE, THE AMERICAN SOCIETY of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure and assigned the Garden State an overall grade of “D+” based on the condition and performance of roads, bridges, drinking water, energy and other vital infrastructure.

Clearly, New Jersey has plenty of room for improvement, as well as a rich tradition
of infrastructure investments that support economic growth and prosperity throughout the country. In the 19th century, the construction of canals and transcontinental railroads accelerated the movement of people and expansion of markets across the United States.

economic-growthBegun in the 1950s, the Interstate Highway System brought economic opportunities to cities and towns along its route, and is now a vital part of American life. Today, high-tech infrastructure supports modern telecommunications and the Internet—two of the driving forces of our 21st century economy.

Improving New Jersey’s energy infrastructure will have a profound impact on the state’s ability to attract and retain businesses, create jobs and maintain the quality of life its residents enjoy. The ASCE report recommends that New Jersey continue building a more resilient and robust energy infrastructure.

To that end, electric utilities have been rebuilding the state’s electric system to better meet the energy needs of customers who rely on electricity to power their businesses and everyday lives. In fact, electric companies in New Jersey are planning to spend about $8 billion over the next few years on infrastructure and service reliability projects.

Among the best ways for the electric industry to improve its infrastructure is to strengthen and reinforce its transmission lines, the backbone of the electric grid. Large-scale transmission projects, however, face challenges that include high capital costs, significant regulatory oversight and geographic obstacles. Often, the biggest challenge comes from local residents who want safe and reliable electric service, yet oppose the construction of new poles and wires in their neighborhoods that are essential to providing dependable service.

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A recent example of this is JCP&L’s Monmouth County Reliability Project, which will result in a stronger, modernized electrical system benefiting nearly 214,000 customers in the county. Construction will begin after the company receives BPU approval, with a planned in-service date of June 2019. In addition to creating approximately 245 temporary jobs, the $111 million project is expected to deliver economic benefits of nearly $43 million in compensation, nearly $60 million in gross domestic product and $12.6 million in state and local revenues.

As part of JCP&L’s multiyear “Energizing the Future” transmission system reliability enhancement program, the Monmouth County Reliability Project uses an existing New Jersey Transit railroad right-of-way between substations operating in Aberdeen and Red Bank. The project includes a 230-kV transmission line, substation enhancements and modern technology upgrades.

An analysis conducted by a local real estate expert concluded that the project won’t impact local property values, which already reflect the effect of an active commuter rail line and crossing signals in the area. In addition, PJM Interconnection, the independent organization that coordinates the movement of electricity and oversees transmission reliability across New Jersey and
12 other states, confirms the need for this project.

Over the past decade, JCP&L has invested more than $2.5 billion to build a stronger, more resilient electric system. This year alone, the company expects to invest $387 million in a number of key projects to enhance service reliability for its customers throughout northern and central New Jersey. In 2015, JCP&L experienced its best service reliability numbers in more than a decade as a result of ongoing infrastructure investments.

New Jersey will likely see a significant improvement in future report cards issued by the ASCE on its energy infrastructure if projects such as JCP&L’s Monmouth County Reliability Project
are built. They provide the dependable electric service customers need to power their businesses and homes, and help enhance economic prosperity in the Garden State.