Rockland Electric Company Files for Rate Review With the NJBPU

o provide for the continued safe, reliable and secure operation of its energy delivery system, Rockland Electric Company today requested a regulatory rate review by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU).

Rockland Electric’s request begins a nine-month-long administrative proceeding in which the Board of Public Utilities and the Office of Rate Counsel examine the request. That review is managed by an administrative law judge who ensures the fairness, the completeness and the thoroughness of the process from discovery through to the final decision and vote by the NJBPU commissioners.

Rockland Electric’s rate review request includes initiatives designed to: improve electric service reliability and capacity, further protect the electric system from potential storm damage through new infrastructure projects and enhanced vegetation management, and pursue goals designed to engage customers in managing their energy bills to reduce usage, improve the environment and save money.

To fund these initiatives, Rockland Electric seeks an increase in revenues for energy delivery of $9.6 million. This proposed rate increase, if approved by a vote of the NJBPU commissioners, is expected to become effective on or about February 12, 2017. The overall bill for a typical residential electric customer using a monthly average of 925 kWh would increase an average of $10.40 per month, from $177.15 to $187.55 or approximately 5.9 percent.

Here are some highlights of today’s request:

Service Reliability Improvements

Montvale - Summit Avenue Substation. This new $18-million substation on Summit Avenue in Montvale would assume the growing electric demand currently served by the existing Grand Avenue substation in Montvale, providing increased capacity and support for several adjacent substations. The substation, a major reliability and service initiative, is expected to go into service in 2016.

Montvale - Summit Avenue Circuit. To support the major electric service reliability and capacity initiative at the Summit Avenue substation, Rockland Electric plans to install a new double circuit along Summit Avenue. That new $300,000 circuit will be made of storm resilient enhanced overhead spacer cable. The installation is designed with the manufacturer to provide maximum storm protection from tree and miscellaneous branch contact and lightning.
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Ringwood - Ringwood Station Improvements. This is a package of four projects totaling $922,000 to improve service reliability in Ringwood by constructing a new mainline circuit along Cupshaw Avenue, Longview Lane, Valley Road, Lake View Avenue and Upper Lake View Avenue. This project also will involve the installation of approximately 5,000 feet of new lines to improve system resiliency and improving customer voltage by raising the voltage levels here from 4.8 kV to 13.2 kV.

Ringwood - New Circuit Position. This $759,000 service reliability project provides for the connection point for a new proposed 3.6-mile underground circuit exit from the Ringwood substation to Skyline Drive in Ringwood.

Cresskill - Grant Avenue Upgrade. This $206,000 service enhancement project is designed to replace 1,400 feet of line and approximately 11 poles in Cresskill, beginning at the intersection of Grant and Brookside Avenues and end on Highland Street.

Franklin Lakes - Ewing Avenue Upgrade. This $433,000 service improvement project will replace approximately 5,000 feet of existing line and a number of poles along Ewing Avenue in Franklin Lakes. This project will include increased backup capabilities and the installation of new switches that will reduce the size of potential service outages while improving customer restoration.

Mahwah - Glen Gray Road Upgrade. This $200,000 project will address aging infrastructure, improve storm resiliency and enhance service reliability. The project calls for replacing 2,100 feet of copper wire along Glen Gray Road in Mahwah with a larger capacity line.

Harrington Park - Carmen Road Conversion. This $294,000 project in Harrington Park will enhance service reliability by increasing the voltage on the distribution line while replacing 1,900 feet of copper line with all-aluminum conductor. The Company will replace a number of older poles and transformers in this area and install more tree-resistant triplex wire.

Storm Hardening Initiatives.

Projects. Rockland Electric will be performing extensive storm hardening work in West Milford, Oakland, Wyckoff, Cresskill and Upper Saddle River this year. Those projects, totaling approximately $5.9 million, were approved by the NJBPU in a prior proceeding and are being placed into rates with this filing.

Tree Trimming. To further support Rockland Electric’s storm hardening objectives, the Company is including in its rate review request approximately $400,000 more for additional tree-trimming work. That request is aimed at further improving service reliability and reducing the potential for outages.

Meeting N.J. Energy Master Plan (EMP) Goals

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). As part of Rockland Electric’s efforts to reduce future costs to customers and use technology to enhance customer participation in shaping their energy future, Rockland Electric is asking NJBPU regulators to approve the Company’s plans to install an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (“AMI”) system beginning in 2017 and continuing over the next three years.

AMI, also known as smart meters, is an integrated system of meters, communication networks, and data management systems that will:

Reduce costs for meter reading and customer field services, as well as the costs associated with back-office operations required to handle customer billing inquiries
Facilitate quicker restoration of service after a storm event by communicating the precise location of service interruptions
Enhance the planning and operation of the electric grid by providing operators and engineers with detailed data on system conditions
Allow customers to better control their energy costs and participate in various energy efficiency and/or demand response programs
Generate usage data that is key to the overall operation of the smart grid.
Rockland Electric estimates that full installation of 73,880 electric smart meters throughout its service territory will take approximately three years and cost $16.5 million. The Company is not requesting funding for AMI in this rate proposal. In keeping with NJBPU procedures, Rockland Electric plans to ask for recovery of those costs in future regulatory rate review proceedings.

Smart Grid. A smart grid is an electrical grid that includes a variety of operational and energy control measures, including smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources and energy efficiency resources.
Rockland Electric proposes to invest up to $8 million over three years in its smart grid program for equipment and circuit enhancements to further automate the operation of the electric system. That plan would integrate state-of-the-art equipment and technology with advances in computer analysis, communications, monitoring and control to significantly enhance reliability, efficiency, and quality of service on select circuits.

The customer benefits, including cost savings, and service enhancements associated with both the smart meter and smart grid technological improvements are consistent with the goals of New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan (EMP).

Communication Network Upgrade. This $550,400 project’s goal is to expand Rockland Electric’s fiber optic infrastructure in Ramsey, Oakland, Franklin Lakes, Wyckoff, Allendale and Montvale. That expansion is designed so that Rockland’s fiber optic system can successfully meet the increased system demand generated by data communications and automation initiatives.

These proposed new rates cover the cost of delivering the energy itself. The cost of the electric commodity is set by market forces. That price is determined each year primarily in the Basic Generation Service (BGS) auction overseen by the NJBPU. Since the deregulation of the electric utility industry in New Jersey, all of the state’s electric utility companies purchase energy for their customers through the auction.

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Today’s rate review request and additional information are available at: www.oru.com.

Rockland Electric operates and maintains 14 distribution substations, 778 miles of overhead distribution lines, 536 conductor miles of underground distribution and 69 distribution circuits and related infrastructure in a manner that provides for safe and reliable service to its electric customers.

Rockland Electric Company is an electric utility serving approximately 72,000 customers in parts of northern Bergen and Passaic counties and small sections of Sussex County 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.