CEO: PSEG $6.7bn investment will improve NJ economy

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG; NYSE:PEG) is investing billions in projects that will improve the reliability of New Jersey’s energy infrastructure, help the environment and stimulate the local economy.

That was the message Ralph Izzo, the company’s chairman, president, and CEO, delivered at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Newark, N.J., April 17.

“We are pursuing a $6.7bn investment program – one that is creating thousands of jobs and bolstering New Jersey’s economy,” Izzo said. Three quarters of that amount will be spent by the company’s regulated utility, Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G), and slightly more than half will be spent in the transmission area, he said.

PSE&G is investing $3.5bn in transmission projects that will help maintain and improve reliability and lower costs for consumers. It is also spending $307m to bring energy efficiency improvements to customers who might not have been able to afford them otherwise, Izzo said.

In addition, PSE&G is increasing its investments in infrastructure improvements in both its electric and gas businesses, and is spending more than $700m on solar energy projects.

Investments in grid improvements, solar energy projects, and emissions controls will improve the reliability of the electric system, and have created jobs, Izzo said.

In addition to the jobs already created from these investments, the $700m invested in solar energy projects is expected to create the equivalent of more than 1,000 jobs, he said. The recent completion of $1.3bn in advanced emissions controls at two of PSE&G’s coal-fired generating stations – Mercer and Hudson – created 1,600 construction jobs, he said.

In addition, the emissions controls made the plants two of the cleanest facilities of their type in America, a feature that Izzo contends will help make them more competitive in the energy markets.

Izzo spoke favorably of competitive energy markets, a position that puts him at odds with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the Board of Public Utilities. Both have disputed the notion that competitive markets are sufficient to spur the building of new generation.

Izzo said markets have a role in meeting needs for safe, reliable and clean energy and doing so at the lowest possible cost to consumers. “Markets drive innovation across the U.S. economy,” he said. “New clean power plants have been built in a cost-effective way, and existing plants improved. Moreover, the market supports a growing role for energy efficiency and programs to reduce peak usage so that fewer new power plants need to be built in the first place,” Izzo continued.

He also listed other ways PSEG makes an impact on the economy, including paying $1bn in wages annually. The company also spends $1bn annually with New Jersey businesses, pays over $150m to New Jersey retirees and survivors, and pays more than $370m in local and state taxes, he said.

Izzo concluded his remarks by noting the “contributions of our dedicated employees,” whom he had earlier called “heroic in responding to two of the most devastating storms in PSEG history – Hurricane Irene in late August, and less than two months later, a rare October snowstorm, which was even more destructive because of falling branches and trees.”

“In each instance, in the finest traditions of the company, the men and women of Public Service banded together to help our customers when they needed us most,” Izzo said.