3 min read April 2022 — PSE&G is New Jersey’s oldest and largest electric and gas utility, serving 2.8 million customers. A subsidiary of PSEG, PSE&G has had a key role in fueling New Jersey’s economy and supporting the state’s quality of life. In an interview with Invest:, PSE&G President and COO Kim Hanemann discussed the company’s highlights, the New Jersey Energy Master Plan, strategies to mitigate challenges, what makes New Jersey great and her outlook for the near future.
What are some PSE&G’s key highlights from the last year and how are priorities shaping up?
It has been a challenging couple of years, but it has also been very exciting. The pandemic has allowed us to innovate and revamp many of our work processes to be successful in the COVID-19 environment, so it spurred incredible change for us. We have laid a great foundation to build on going forward. We’ve introduced our Powering Progress vision to power a future where our customers use less energy, and it’s cleaner, safer and delivered more reliably than ever.
We are focused on that vision and have a five-year, $16 billion investment plan. One key element is our Clean Energy Future program, which includes a $1 billion investment in energy efficiency programs for residential and business customers. This program will allow customers to save money on their bills and use less power, while also being good for the environment. Another key element is a $700 million investment to install smart meters for our New Jersey electric customers. We already have around 85,000 smart meters, but we have 2.2 million more to install. We will be ramping up mass meter deployment this year. The last element of this program is a $160 million investment in the make-ready-work residential and public charging stations for electric vehicles.
When you look at the rest of our infrastructure investments, we are focusing on resilience and reliability with our Gas System Modernization Program. We are continuing to replace our exposed iron and unprotected steel natural gas mains. We are the largest single operator of cast-iron gas infrastructure in the country and have a little under 3,000 miles left to replace. We expect to reduce our methane emissions by 41% under that program. At the same time, as part of our Energy Strong program investments, we are making our electric and gas infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events, to better withstand them and to better respond and restore customers as quickly as possible. We have raised and rebuilt 29 stations to get them out of flood zone areas, and Hurricane Ida proved the effectiveness of those investments. In September 2021, as the storm hit, we lost no power in any of those stations, and people could start their restoration processes quicker than what we experienced during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
How do these projects tie into New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan and the federal infrastructure bill?
They all tie directly into the state’s Energy Master Plan. I’ve talked about resilience and the investments we are making to ready the system for electrification and reduce greenhouse gasses. That aligns both with our programs and public policy. In a broader sense, beyond PSE&G, we’ve invested in offshore wind power. We have 25% ownership of Ørsted’s Ocean Wind offshore wind farm project, and we have a team that is putting up a competitive bid for the transmission support to reach the state’s goal of 7,500 megawatts of power into the grid.
What are some of the challenges that you have had to strategize around?
PSE&G has a lot of experience executing large infrastructure projects. In 2008, I oversaw the execution of a large transmission project and, from my experience, I can say that one of our key successes has been in building a diverse team. We made it a goal to hire a diverse team in every dimension, including nationalities, genders and generations. I saw firsthand the value of it, as it brings a richness of solutions to the table. We live in one of the most diverse states in the country and we want our employee population to represent the state. We’ve been focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and ensuring that everyone who comes to work for PSE&G feels valued.
What are some unique or defining aspects of the local market?
New Jersey is a special place; people have grit. I’m a Jersey girl, I love it here. When I look at our employees, we are all very tied to the state and we are committed to the success and growth of our communities.
What are some key differences between the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic environments?
We are never going back to the way we were before. PSE&G innovated on so many different levels and learned how to do things differently. We will continue to institutionalize those changes. A perfect example is our customer call centers. Most of our call center employees went fully remote and their performance is better now than they were pre-pandemic, so this is our new normal.
We’ve learned a lot, it has made us stronger and we are not reverting to the way we were. In the beginning, there were some challenges around communication but we found out that we have a good relationship with our union leaders and employees. We had to communicate better to work together, especially as things evolve quickly and we must change with it. Communication and teamwork have been keys to our success.
What is your outlook for the next few years?
We had a rough start in January 2022 with COVID-19, as most of us were severely impacted from a workforce point of view. We came out of that, along with the rest of the state, and are back on track in all our programs. We are closely watching the supply chain and some areas have been challenging, such as electric infrastructure assets like transformers. We have been paying close attention to alternative strategies to alleviate some of those constraints. Overall, we will continue to do what we do well and execute infrastructure programs. We will increase our subscribers in the energy efficiency programs, especially as people are getting back to work more normally. Those are our main elements for the next few years and we’ve set a strong path to get ourselves there.
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