Utility Plans on Investing in Infrastructure — and Jobs in South Jersey

Tom Johnson | October 20, 2011 | Energy & Environment
Atlantic City Electric says upgrades will boost the reliability of the regional power grid and the region's economy

Atlantic City Electric is proposing to spend another $69 million in capital expenditures next year to help jumpstart the economy in South Jersey under a proposal filed yesterday with state utility regulators.

The utility, which serves about a half-million customers in the southern portion of the state, is proposing to ramp up spending under its Infrastructure Improvement Program, a policy the state has encouraged to finance upgrades to the New Jersey’s distribution and transmission system as well as creating jobs in a struggling economy.

Atlantic City Electric says the upgrades will enhance the reliability of the power grid, a concern especially critical to the utility because it has been deluged with a wave of solar projects seeking to tie into its distribution system.

With plenty of open land in the south, most of the large solar projects proposed by developers are in Atlantic City Electric’s territory, where the transmission and distribution power grid is not as robust as the one farther north because of its smaller population and industrial base.

The state is trying to address that through bills moving through the legislature; meanwhile, the utility is hoping to improve reliability through increased upgrades to the system.

The company recently completed its 2009 BPU-approved Infrastructure Improvement Program, which involved accelerated capital spending on $27.6 million of upgrades, creating 59 new construction-related jobs.

If approved by the Board of Public Utilities, the expansion of the program would consist of 12 categories of reliability-based capital infrastructure projects, a proposal that could create an additional 100 construction-related jobs in New Jersey.

The cost would be minimal to ratepayers. If the program gets the go-ahead, the typical monthly bill for a residential customer would increase by 83 cents a month, from $180.50 to $181.33, effective January 1, 2012.

“We’re pleased to continue this statewide initiative to revitalize the state’s economy and enhance service to their customers,’’ said Vince Maione, Atlantic City Electric Region president. “To date, our Infrastructure Improvement Investment Program has created 59 jobs and allowed us to accelerate valuable reliability enhancement work. We look forward to continuing and expanding this very successful program.’’

Ironically, PJM Interconnection recently canceled a transmission upgrade project in the utility’s territory.

PJM, the region’s electric grid operator, recently completed an analysis of the Atlantic City Electric transmission system and has determined that construction of the proposed Minotola-to-Lincoln 138-kilovolt transmission line is no longer needed to maintain the reliability of the system. As a result, Atlantic City Electric is cancelling plans for the line.

Atlantic City Electric, in partnership with PJM Interconnection, will continue to analyze the system on a regular basis and develop construction solutions as necessary to meet all required reliability standards.