JCP&L Transmission Line to Cut Seven-Mile Strip Through Northern NJ

State's second-largest utility plans to file petition with BPU early in 2014

transmission tower
Northern New Jersey residents get an opportunity this week to weigh in on another utility transmission project cutting a seven-mile swath through three Morris County communities.

The $25 million Montville-Whippany Transmission Reinforcement project is the latest of a number of gas and electric transmission ventures that have either been approved or are pending in the northern part of the state, some crossing through parts of the New Jersey Highlands.

Like other transmission projects, Montville-Whippany was mandated by the regional operator of the nation’s largest power grid to address reliability concerns and deal with future demand.

But environmental groups argue that initiatives to reduce electricity use via energy efficiency programs and the state’s aggressive efforts to promote cleaner and local sources of power eliminate the need for big transmission projects.

Jersey Central Power & Light will provide additional information at open houses held at the Holiday Inn on Route 46 East in Parsippany today and tomorrow. The events are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow.

The preferred route for the project involves building a new 230-kilovolt transmission line through parts of East Hanover, Parsippany, and Montville along an existing power line, according to Ron Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L.

The utility said the project will increase service reliability and add redundancy to JCP&L’s system and meet growing demand, since homeowners use electricity to power everything from big-screen TVs to computers to the kitchen appliances.

It’s being done as a reinforcement project, but also to meet future load growth,’’ Morano said. He noted that the preferred route may require new structures on the seven-mile line as well as additional rights-of-way.

JCP&L also needs approval from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. It expects to file a petition with the regulatory agency in the first quarter of 2014,

In the past few years, utilities have welcomed recommendations to build new transmission lines in the state since they earn more money from those investments than for spending money on their distribution systems, which deliver electricity from substations to homes and businesses.

At the same time, utilities are under increasing pressure from state regulators and other government officials to make the power grid more resilient to extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy. The storm left 7 million people in New Jersey without power just over a year ago.

While the BPU retains jurisdiction over the route of any new transmission project, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determines earnings for each proposal, an agency critics say is more apt to award higher returns to the utilities.

The JCP&L project is part of its local infrastructure and transmission enhancement program, a $200 million, multiyear initiative that will improve service reliability for the company’s customers in northern and central New Jersey.

JCP&L, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron, Ohio, is the state’s second-largest electric utility with more than 1 million customers in 13 counties in New Jersey. With the spate of recent huge storms, it has come under heavy scrutiny from the BPU over its slow pace in restoring power to customers.