Rockland Electric Co. plans to improve electric service reliability for its customers by initiating a new five-year, $60-million electric system storm hardening program to underground targeted sections of the electric system, upgrade key substations and install innovative technology that automatically reports power outages.
Rockland Electric developed this new program in response to an order by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) inviting all the state's electric utilities to submit detailed proposals for upgrades designed to protect the state's utility infrastructure from further major storm events.
That order was issued in the wake of the massive destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, which devastated much of New Jersey's electric system and knocked out power to almost 90 percent of Rockland Electric's customers.
If approved by the NJBPU, for a typical residential customer using a monthly average of 925 kWh, Rockland Electric's program will increase the monthly bill by an average $1.94, or 1.1 percent in its first year, from $176.05 to $177.99. That increase would go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.
As the program advances and additional investments are made in the system, the bills would increase as follows: Year Two — 85 cents or 0.5 percent; Year Three — 93 cents or 0.5 percent; Year Four — 61 cents or 0.3 percent and Year Five — 51 cents or 0.3 percent. The cumulative effect on the monthly bill at the end of the five years would be a 2.7 percent increase or $4.84 per month.
The new storm hardening program plans a number of service reliability improvement projects ranging from undergrounding a new 3.6-mile mainline distribution system in Ringwood at a cost of $7.2 million and adding a new electric circuit at a cost of $868,000 to the Ringwood substation, to undergrounding two new electric circuits totaling 8,500 feet for $5.1 million in West Milford.
The service reliability improvement projects also include electric circuit upgrades at several locations in Mahwah, Harrington Park, Old Tappan, Oakland and Wyckoff. Those improvements are designed to bolster electric service to those communities and adjacent towns.
Another part of the program features flood mitigation work that would provide added protection against potential storm damage to the electric system at the Cresskill and Upper Saddle River substations and the surrounding communities that they serve.
In addition, Rockland Electric proposes a new service reliability improvement initiative aimed at removing hazardous trees that are located outside Rockland Electric's rights-of-way. This plan, which could benefit nearly every community in the Rockland Electric service area, would target trees that are diseased, damaged or otherwise so compromised as they pose a risk to the reliable operation of the electric system. Rockland Electric's Vegetation Management Program does not currently provide for the removal of such trees outside of the Company's rights-of-way. Through continued close collaboration with its municipal and public works partners and customers, Rockland Electric plans to develop a procedure that would permit the Company to safely remove the dangerous trees.
Technology enhancements also are an integral part of the overall storm hardening initiative to improve service. The program's technological innovation centers on a large-scale meter replacement project that will begin in Rockland Electric's Bergen County service area. The plan calls for the replacement of over 58,000 older electric meters with smart meters that possess two-way communication capabilities.
The smart meters' chief storm hardening benefit is that they can automatically report individual electric service outages and their exact location to Rockland Electric. That helps speed repairs and service restoration without customers having to report an outage. The smart meters also permit Rockland Electric to remotely check the meter after repairs to distribution line circuits have been completed to verify that electric service has been restored.
The new service reliability improvements also include the expansion of the smart grid pilot project that Rockland Electric has built into parts of its electric system in its Bergen County service area. The smart grid integrates state-of-the-art equipment and technology with advances in computer analysis, communications, monitoring and control to significantly enhance system reliability, efficiency, communication with customers and overall quality of service.
Rockland Electric Co. operates and maintains 14 distribution substations, 778 miles of overhead distribution lines, 536 conductor miles of underground distribution and 69 distribution circuits.
Rockland Electric Co. is an electric utility serving approximately 72,000 customers in parts of northern Bergen (57,328) and Passaic (13,242) counties and small sections of Sussex County (330) in New Jersey. Rockland Electric is a wholly owned subsidiary of Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc., which in turn is owned by Consolidated Edison, Inc.
Bergen County communities served by Rockland Electric Company are: Allendale, Alpine, Closter, Cresskill, Demarest, Franklin Lakes, Harrington Park, Haworth (part), Mahwah, Montvale, Northvale, Norwood, Oakland, Old Tappan (part), Ramsey, River Vale (part), Rockleigh, Saddle River (part), Upper Saddle River, Wyckoff (part).
Passaic County communities served by Rockland Electric Company are: Ringwood (part) and West Milford (part).
Rockland Electric Company also serves portions of the Sussex County communities of Montague, Vernon and Wantage.