by Tom Johnson, NJSpotlight.com
It is a staggering $4 billion rate case, but there just might be consensus on one issue: The state’s utilities need to increase the amount they invest in their power grids to make them more resilient to extreme weather.
How much and just who is going to shoulder the bulk of that expense, however, remains to be seen. At least that seems evident from an initial public hearing on a plan by Public Service Electric & Gas to spend $2.6 billion over the next five years and another $1.3 billion over the rest of the decade.
The case, pending before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, is likely to set a precedent as to how much the state’s other electric and gas utilities invest to prevent widespread and lengthy outages from storms like Hurricane Sandy. Those events will be part of the new normal in the future, according to most officials.
The case poses a delicate balancing act for the state agency. How should it order utilities to implement measures to prevent the more than week-long outages customers suffered during Sandy without driving up energy bills, already among the highest in the nation?