It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, killing more than 125 people and causing more than $60 billion in damage. The 10-year milestone seems an appropriate time to shine a light on the state’s electric utilities to discover if our power grid will be as resilient as it can be when the next major weather event happens. Their impressive efforts that follow indicate that the work of protecting our electrical grid is a work in progress.
For Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), the largest and oldest utility in New Jersey, Sandy was an inflection point. The utility’s 6,400 employees, along with 4,500 mutual aid workers from 24 states and the Province of Quebec, worked around-the-clock for weeks to restore power to 2 million (90%) of PSE&G customers.
Damage from Sandy was unprecedented. Storm surges of more than 12 feet flooded over 14 electric switching stations and interrupted one-third of PSE&G transmission lines. More than 48,000 trees had to be trimmed or removed and 2,500 poles were repaired or replaced.
Post-Sandy, PSE&G developed the Energy Strong and the Gas System Modernization Program (GSMP)— a multiyear, multiphase $4.8 billion initiative to strengthen and modernize electric and gas infrastructure and protect customers from future extreme weather events.
PSE&G worked with multiple local, state, and federal agencies to get support for the historic investment, and deployed legions of civil and electrical engineers and construction workers.
Hardening New Jersey’s electric and natural gas networks against extreme weather events remains a work in progress. From 2021 to 2025, PSE&G plans to invest $14–16 billion, some of which is intended to modernize and strengthen infrastructure, including future phases of Energy Strong and GSMP, along with a new initiative recently approved by New Jersey regulators, the Infrastructure Advancement Program (IAP).
At the peak of Superstorm Sandy power outages, more than 1 million of JCP&L’s 1.1. million customers were without power. While nearly 20% of customers were restored within the first 36 hours of the storm, ultimately, it took 13 days to complete restoration activities.
More than 13,800 JCP&L electrical professionals took part in the restoration efforts. More than 65,000 trees had to be cut and removed from JCP&L equipment and more than 6,700 utility poles were replaced. Once that work was completed, crews replaced than 400 miles of wire and 3,600 transformers to restore service.
Post Sandy, JCP&L launched a text message and instant mobile alerts platform for customers to report and check the status of an outage from their phones. They also invested in infrastructure, modernizing the network by installing flood barriers and permanent walls, raising equipment in some substations, and installing real-time monitoring devices.
Additionally, the utility completed a major infrastructure enhancement early last year, installing circuit breaker-like devices on overhead lines that can limit the size of outages and automatically reenergize a power line after a temporary interruption in service. It also installed automation technology that can
isolate damage and reroute power flow around damaged equipment, and introduced mobile substations that can supplement these important locations while repairs are made to damaged equipment.
Next year, JCP&L will begin installing smart meters that will ultimately allow the company to gather real-time data on the size and scope of power outages.
Following Superstorm Sandy, Atlantic City Electric completed several critical projects from the mainland to coastal areas to strengthen its infrastructure and make the entire system more resilient to the effects of more impactful weather events. This work includes building new substations, elevated above the 100-year flood stage with remote operation capabilities; enhancing existing and installing new underground equipment where appropriate and necessary; upgrading and strengthening transmission and distribution lines; and installing stronger steel utility poles that are capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds up to 120 mph. System reliability equipment that can automatically restore service faster or isolate damage and minimize the impacts of outages when they do occur was also installed.
The PowerAhead program, a five-year grid resiliency initiative addressing vulnerable areas prone to extended outages during severe storms, was recently completed by the company. This work included installing hundreds of devices enabling remote power restoration. The devices automatically restore power to homes and businesses, undergrounding existing power lines in targeted areas. In addition, PowerAhead included the upgrading and expanding of local energy grid connections between the barrier islands and the mainland to improve system resiliency against extreme weather events.
Atlantic City Electric continues to invest tens of millions of dollars each year to maintain and modernize the local energy grid to provide safe and reliable service for its customers and communities.
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