Winter Storm Jonas Shows T&D Investment Paying Off

Editor In Chief

Teresa Hansen

I’ve read and written a lot about the T&D industry’s transformation and I expect it will be a subject I continue to write about for years to come. It’s important, however, to take a step back and recognize that a lot transformation has already occurred.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that in the 15 years from 1997 to 2012, investment in North American power transmission projects rose from $2.7 billion to $14.1 billion. And, the EIA predicts that another $48 billion will be invested in transmission projects from 2013 to 2022.

The Edison Electric Institute estimates that total capital spending by investor-owned electric utilities from 2003 until the end of this year (2016) will top $1 trillion. That is the largest expenditure in more than 30 years. And, if you think back three decades ago, much of the capital investment in the mid-80s went toward large central-station power plants. While some of the $1 trillion used for new gas-fired plants to replace retiring coal plants, much of the money went toward T&D infrastructure to allow more efficient and reliable delivery of electricity, reduce outages and create a grid that can meet customers’ expectations and operate with the changing generation mix.

The result of this T&D investment was evident when Winter Storm Jonas blanketed 26 states with snow in late January. Jonas was the fourth most powerful snowstorm to hit the Northeast in at least 66 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. New York City was hit hard, receiving more than two feet of snow. The storm shut down New York’s public transportation and grounded flights in and out of the city for some time. This was the topic of most every national news story from Friday, Jan. 22, through the following Monday. What wasn’t a top story? Power outages in New York City and the rest of the Northeast.

Con Edison, which provides electric service to 3.3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, reported that more than 1,000 power outages were averted during Jonas because of $1 billion in upgrades to its infrastructure over the past three years.

From the time the storm hit on Friday evening until Monday morning, Con Edison reported that approximately 4,500 storm-related power outages occurred throughout its service area. All those customers were restored by Monday afternoon. That’s exponentially better than the statistics reported when Super Storm Sandy hit the city just over three years ago.

Con Edison is only one of many utilities with service areas hit hard by Jonas. Based on news coverage, or the lack thereof, and the press releases that came into my inbox, it’s clear that the investments are paying off. U.S. utilities-and the technology companies that partner with them-have heard the voices of regulators, politicians and customers and they have responded accordingly.

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