Friday, June 1, 2018

PSE&G says big spending plans won't hurt ratepayers

Company insists that expenditures will not spike ratepayer’s bills, but Rate Counsel, others remain skeptical

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:
Public Service Electric & Gas plans to align its capital spending with state energy policies by filing requests to invest $2.9 billion on a clean-energy initiative and $2.5 billion to upgrade its power grid.
Public Service Enterprise Group, the utility’s parent, outlined the broad features of the programs yesterday at the New York Stock Exchange to analysts at the company’s annual investor’s conference. The formal filings should be made to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in the coming weeks and later this year, executives said.
Despite the huge proposed expenditures, PSEG executives argued they will not spike customers’ bills, in part because of the historically low natural-gas prices, which have plummeted in recent years, leading to lower electricity prices and sharply reduced heating costs.The spending proposals reflect the bulk of the company’s planned $14 billion – $17 billion capital investment program over the next five years with 90 percent of the expenditures targeted for the utility. Just last week, PSE&G won BPU approval to spend $1.9 billion to replace cast-iron and unprotected steel mains in its gas distribution system in a separate rate case.
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Even with the investments, Ralph Izzo, the company’s president, CEO, and chairman, said “in a decade, customers will be paying what they were paying back in 2010.’’ Customers’ bills have dropped by 20 percent since the company’s last rate case eight years ago, he said. 

Rate Counsel remains skeptical

Others were more skeptical. “This is just a massive transfer of wealth from the citizens of New Jersey to the shareholders of PSEG,’’ said Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel.
Steve Goldenberg, an attorney representing large energy users, said these multi-billion dollar programs, when combined with other initiatives, such as a new $300 million annual subsidy for nuclear power plants, would place an intolerable burden on the business community and ratepayers.
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