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Rockland Electric Asks Rate Review of Storm Hardening Costs

 Rockland Electric Company is seeking a rate review of the construction costs associated with the second year of its three-year, $15.7-million electric system storm hardening construction program.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) approved the program in 2016, and placed the first year’s completed projects costs into rates earlier this year.

The second year’s projects are expected to be completed by the end of December, and those construction costs totaling $6.7 million would then be eligible for rate review by the NJBPU.

Chief among the second-year’s storm-hardening reliability improvement projects are electric distribution automation and smart grid expansion efforts in 16 communities: Allendale, Alpine, Closter, Cresskill, Franklin Lakes, Hewitt, Mahwah, Northvale, Norwood, Oakland, Old Tappan, Ramsey, Ringwood, Upper Saddle River, West Milford and Wyckoff.

The smart grid integrates state-of-the-art equipment and technology with advances in computer analysis, communications, monitoring and control to significantly enhance system reliability, efficiency and overall quality of service. The program’s goals are fewer outages, smaller outages and briefer outages.

For example, this “smart” operating equipment — communication systems, automated switches, sensors and other “intelligent” devices — enables the electric system to sense where problems on the circuit exist and automatically isolate those problems. This isolated section of the circuit would remain out of service until repairs are made, but the remainder of the circuit — often serving hundreds of other customers — would remain energized, providing uninterrupted service to those customers.

In addition, a number of overhead electric system upgrades are underway, featuring the installation of stronger cable and more robust poles in Harrington Park, Old Tappan and Oakland.

Rockland Electric developed this program in response to an order by the NJBPU inviting all the state’s electric utilities to submit detailed proposals for upgrades designed to protect the state’s utility infrastructure from future storm events. That order was issued in the wake of the massive destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, which devastated much of New Jersey’s electric system and knocked out power to almost 90 percent of Rockland Electric’s customers in 2012.

To fund these latest improvements, the typical Rockland Electric residential customer using a monthly average of 925 kWh would see his/her monthly bill increase by an average of 58 cents or 0.3 percent from $167.99 to $168.57. That increase would be expected to go into effect April 1, 2018.

Rockland Electric Company is an electric utility that serves 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.