NJ's largest utility sees Sandy costs up to $300M

AP News
Posted: Dec 04, 2012 11:52 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Public Service Electric and Gas is estimating the cost of restoring power after Superstorm Sandy and a subsequent Nor'easter at between $250 million and $300 million.

The vast majority of that cost will almost certainly be borne by the utility's customers in the form of higher rates in future years.

PSE&G, New Jersey's largest utility, says 1.7 million of its electric customers were without power during the course of the storm — the most in the utility's history.

The storm also caused severe damage to its infrastructure. The Newark company, a unit of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., or PSEG, says it had to replace 1,000 transformers after the storm. Its crews are still working to repair its system.

The utility will ask regulators for permission to recover restoration costs in future years. In general, public utility commissions do allow utilities to charge for storm restoration, though they don't always grant utilities all they ask for — especially if the commission feels the company did not do an adequate job preparing for a storm or restoring customers fast enough afterward.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was generally supportive of his state's utilities in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

The company said Tuesday it expect to recover "at least 85 percent" of the costs it incurred.

The utility says the estimate does not include the cost of beefing up its infrastructure to better protect it from future storms. For that, the company would need to ask regulators for permission to install new equipment and to charge ratepayers for it.

Jersey Central Power & Light, the state's second-largest utility, said Friday it expects to eventually amend an existing rate request to factor in losses from Sandy. The storm knocked out power to about 1.2 million JCP&L customers. The standing request seeks permission from state regulators to boost the utility's rates by 1.4 percent to improve its infrastructure and cope with losses from two major weather events that occurred in 2011.

PSEG continues to forecast operating earnings of $2.25 to $2.50 per share for the full year. FactSet says analysts expect earnings of $2.39 per share.

PSEG shares rose 12 cents in morning trading to $29.97 per share.