PSE&G improves infrastructure, communication after Superstorm Sandy

Superstorm Sandy was the most powerful and destructive storm in Public Service Electric and Gas Co.'s 111-year history, causing more than 2 million PSE&G customers to lose power.

In the two years since the storm, PSE&G, which serves nearly three-quarters of New Jersey's population, continues to make improvements to its infrastructure, communications and logistics that will keep more customers in service during a storm, and restore service faster in the aftermath.

Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG) is a publicly traded diversified energy company with annual revenues of $10 billion. Its operating units are: PSEG Power, Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) and PSEG Long Island.

Before Sandy, PSE&G began rewiring its system, adding 69-kV lines for added capacity and reliability. That work continues. The new lines are being installed on stronger poles with better lightning protection, and fiber optic wires that improve communication between substations.

During the next three years, PSE&G's $1.22 billion Energy Strong program will help the utility strengthen and protect its electric and gas systems against severe weather damage.

As part of the Energy Strong program, PSE&G will protect, raise or relocate 29 switching and substations; replace and modernize 250 miles of gas mains in or near flood areas; create redundancy in the system; protect five natural gas metering stations and a liquefied natural gas station affected by Sandy or located in flood zones; and deploy smart grid technologies to better monitor system operations.

Work is currently under way in 28 municipalities to replace low-pressure cast iron gas mains, with high-pressure plastic pipes.

Smart grid projects underway include installing advanced technologies in PSE&G substations to facilitate full remote monitoring and control; and contingency restoration work that adds smart switches and fuses, and multiple sections on circuits. These upgrades ensure that when there is an outage, service will be restored faster and the outage will affect fewer customers.

In addition to improving infrastructure, PSE&G has made significant changes to better communicate with customers before, during and after storms.

New communication tools include MyAlerts, which allows customers to opt in for text messages, as well as email notifications about outages in their area and service restoration; and an enhanced Outage Map that provides customers with detailed information about power outages in their neighborhood and across PSE&G's service territory.

Internal communications, emergency training and logistics are critical to storm preparedness. Located at the company's headquarters in Newark is its Delivery Emergency Response Center (DERC), which is activated to oversee multiple operations in the field when preparing for and responding to a major storm. People representing all functions across the company staff DERC 24/7 — getting the right people, to the right places, with the right equipment at the right time.

PSE&G conducts extensive storm outage planning, training and exercises throughout the year. So far this year, its employees have completed more than 1,700 emergency preparedness and response training sessions, logging nearly 4,000 hours of training. Training in safety and damage assessment equips PSE&G office employees to help in the field during emergencies.

Since Sandy, process improvement teams have studied more efficient ways to undertake restoration activities, and PSE&G has expanded its network of mutual aid from eight to 22 utilities.

To accommodate the massive influx of people and equipment during Sandy, PSE&G set up 12 staging areas across the state. Since then, the company has identified 22 staging areas and has specific site plans and role assignments for each of these "pop-up utility cities" where material and equipment is stored and trucks can be fueled.

Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) is New Jersey's oldest and largest regulated gas and electric delivery utility, serving nearly three-quarters of the state's population.

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