PSEG Chairman Confident in Infrastructure, Supports Solar

July 27, 2012 | Energy & Environment
PSEG Chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo discusses the company's decision to stay in Newark, his confidence in the infrastructure, his support of Gov. Christie's veto for a cap and trade program and the future of the solar energy industry.

PSEG made the decision this week to stay in Newark until at least 2030. PSEG Chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo told NJ Today Mike Schneider that there were a number of reasons to stay in the Brick City and he’s excited to continue the relationship there. Izzo also discussed the company’s commitment to public service, its infrastructure and the solar energy industry.

Izzo said PSEG has been in Newark for more than 100 years, showing its commitment to the city. He also said it’s a great transportation center that employees have established commuting habits around. “And it’s a city that’s on a strong rebound — what’s been happening both with the arts and entertainment, a very vibrant higher education community, some improvement in the housing stock — all really pointed towards staying exactly where we are and continuing the relationship for another century hopefully,” he said.

Izzo said PSEG is committed to public service, as evidenced by its first two letters. He said many other corporations are also giving back to the community, but in challenging economic times companies have to balance the core function of a business — providing value for shareholders — with obligations to the community. According to Izzo, PSEG is unique in its efforts to help the community.

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“The company was founded on the basis of a desire to bring about improvements in public transportation,” Izzo said. “So supporting the community and giving back has been something that’s been part of the fabric of our company and has been something that, quite candidly, engages and motivates our employees so perhaps it’s a little bit easier for us to do these types of things.”

Izzo said he is confident in PSEG’s infrastructure despite the fact that most of the system is above ground and susceptible to storm damage. “I think we’ve demonstrated time and time again that we spare no expense in making sure we have crews on the ready, all hands on deck so to speak, in anticipation of storms when we have advance warning and we’re able to bring customers back on those rare occasions when we’re hit by something of a serious nature like we were last year,” he said.

According to Izzo, New Jersey has been somewhat spared this year in terms of severe weather, though he admits some customers have experienced outages. “For the most part this year has been a much lower impact than last year,” he said. “In terms of the physical infrastructure itself, we make sure that when we restore it, it’s back to day one readiness and good as new at that point.”

Izzo said he agrees with Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to veto a bill that would have kept New Jersey in a multi-state program meant to reduce greenhouse emission gases, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. In theory, Izzo said the idea would work, but pointed out that Congress opted not to pursue it.

“So at this point it makes no sense for New Jerseyans to pay an extra $2 or $3 per ton of carbon which does translate into higher bills while other states are not doing the same thing. It doesn’t do anything to improve the environment,” Izzo said. “In fact, arguably it worsens the environment as you shift the generation fleet to less efficient plants that aren’t burdened by that additional fee.”

Izzo said while he supports Christie’s actions now, he believes the world needs to think about climate change. “I just wish the nation as a whole and the international community as a whole would come to grips with the fact that climate change is real and something we need to confront,” he said.

Solar energy is something Izzo supports, though he said he believes it should begin at the utility level. “I think first of all the utility gets the advantage of the investment tax credit, which is a 30 percent advantage on a project and then gives that back to customers, as opposed to customers subsidizing individual owners and operators of solar plants and then not getting the benefit back to the general population from that investment tax credit,” he said.

Izzo said the solar industry is still in need of some help. “It can’t keep making that claim forever, but I do think it’s deserving of a bit more time to get on its own competitive two feet,” he said.