By Tom Johnson, NJ Spotlight
The state is looking to step up reporting requirements for New Jersey’s four electric utilities in the aftermath of the recent major storms that left millions of homes and businesses without power, many for a week or more.
Beyond requiring more frequent and detailed reports of what and how often equipment fails during power outages, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities also may implement more aggressive efforts to trim trees and vegetation, which can also contribute to outages.
The proposal, still a work in progress, is the latest undertaken by the regulatory agency in response to the huge storms that blasted New Jersey over the past 18 months, blacking out large portions of the state.
The outages have led to numerous legislative initiatives to prevent customers from losing electricity or gas during extreme weather and to spur the utilities to restore power more quickly.
It also has forced the utilities to examine what they can do to prevent widespread outages and restore power more swiftly. For instance, Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest utility, filed last week a petition with the BPU seeking to spend as much as $4 billion over the next decade to make its distribution and transmission system more resilient.
Its proposal calls for the utility to spend a big chunk of the money on elevating or preventing PSE&G’s substations from flooding during major storms. When a substation is knocked offline, it can leaves tens of thousands of customers in the dark.
The agency’s latest proposal is aimed at giving its staff the analytical tools to better understand why customers are losing power not only in major storm events but also during more frequent, less widespread blackouts.