It’s safe to say James Fakult is well versed in the energy industry. The 32-year FirstEnergy veteran served in myriad roles at the company over the years ranging from operations to communications before making the leap to president of FirstEnergy’s Maryland subsidiary, a position he held for three years. In 2013, Fakult took over as president of Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) – another FirstEnergy subsidiary – where he continues to serve today.
“I didn’t necessarily know when I started on the business side that I would end up running a utility, but it’s been a rewarding experience and I’m grateful for it,” Fakult says, adding that his experience in his previous roles helped him as a leader.
JCP&L plays a critical role in providing power to its 1.1 million customers every day, and Fakult says a continued dedication to improving infrastructure plays a big part in its mission.
“Over the past five or six years we’ve had a lot of challenging weather in New Jersey. We’ve been increasing our investment in our infrastructure to make our grid stronger and more resilient, as well as improving our communications about [what we are doing] with our customers,” Fakult says.
Last summer, JCP&L filed Reliability Plus, an infrastructure plan that includes $387 million in targeted investments to enhance the company’s service reliability and resiliency. Fakult says the plan is currently in the process of getting approved.
“The special focus of this program is to limit damage during severe weather events,” Fakult says. “The new equipment, along with enhanced vegetation management, builds on our ongoing efforts to ensure customer service reliability and resiliency.”
He adds that ultimately, the plan could result in an economic benefit of $1.7 billion to customers.
Another initiative that JCP&L will play a part in is New Jersey’s 2019 Energy Master Plan (EMP), which is intended to set forth a strategic vision for the production, distribution, consumption and conservation of energy in the state, with an ambitious goal to put New Jersey on a path to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
“I think there are a lot of parallel paths [with our company] that we would have in working with and supporting the 2019 EMP. Whether it’s renewable and storage, energy reduction and conservation, electric cars – as a utility we feel we have the infrastructure and the knowhow to construct, maintain and serve customers [in this regard]. We’re looking forward to working with the state and feel like we can do a lot to support the vision of the plan.”
While the vital services that JCP&L provides are not lost on Fakult, he says it’s important to keep in mind that everything the company does begins and ends with the safety of its workers.
“People recognize that we are a customer-driven business and that we deliver a critical product. What they might not recognize is the safety side of our business,” he says. “I have 1,300 employees with a vast majority of them in the field sometimes working in very dangerous conditions. A lot of my time and my leadership’s time is spent talking about safety and making sure every one of our employees goes home the same way they came in at the end of the day.”
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