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Utilities, Christie far apart on storm repair costs

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    While Gov. Chris Christie placed a nearly $2 billion price tag on gas and electric utilities' repair and response to Hurricane Sandy, initial estimates released by the state's two largest electric companies through today barely capture half of that cost.

    Public Service Enterprise Group today estimated the cost associated with the repair of its electricity and gas distribution and transmission system following Sandy and the subsequent nor'easter between $250 million and $300 million.

    According to Jersey Central Power & Light spokesman Ron Morano, the company is still tallying all of the repair and response costs related to Sandy, but its initial estimate stands at $500 million.

    Those figures include only repairs, not grid hardening or other work to improve reliability during a disaster.

    Though Morano did not know if JCP&L supplied data to the governor's office before Christie released his $1.8 billion approximation for gas and electric repairs and response in the wake of Sandy on Nov. 28 — and the $800 million combined cost estimate from PSEG and JCP&L hardly accounts for half of it — a Christie spokesman said in an e-mail that estimate is "where it stands for now."

    That could mean the lion's share of the cost will stem from smaller utility companies like New Jersey Natural Gas. A spokeswoman for New Jersey Natural Gas could not be reached for information about the company's repair cost estimate.

    An Atlantic City Electric spokesman said the company is estimating $30 million in repair costs from the superstorm, which he said was reported to Christie and included in the governor's $1.7 billion estimate for gas and electric repairs statewide. Atlantic City Electric said in a press release about 220,000 of its more than 550,000 customers did not have power at the height of the storm.

    In comparison, PSEG reported the storms left 1.7 million of its customers without power, and JCP&L announced more than 1.3 million outages were reported during the two storms.

    PSEG said it expects at least 85 percent of its approximately $300 million Sandy-related restoration and repair costs to be capitalized or deferred for future recovery from customers, and in a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, JCP&L parent company FirstEnergy Corp. said it expects to do the same for 95 percent of its storm-related costs once they are finalized.

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