Sussex County Unveils Infrastructure Investment Plan

In a recent meeting of the Sussex County Board of Commissioners, a comprehensive presentation on an infrastructure investment plan titled “Energize NJ” took center stage. The plan, proposed by JC P&L and filed with the Board of Public Utilities in November 2023, is set to be a 5-year program with an estimated budget of $935 million aimed at enhancing electric grid reliability, storm hardening, and preparing for future energy demands.

Rich Rabis, representing JC P&L, outlined the ambitious infrastructure investment plan that is poised to influence Sussex County’s resilience to power outages and its overall energy future. The “Energize NJ” program is designed with a focus on grid modernization, system resiliency, and capacity expansion.

The first component of the plan involves grid modernization, with a $271 million allocation. The plan also encompasses the hardening of the grid against storms, which is a critical aspect given the frequent weather-related disruptions affecting the county.

The second component, system resiliency, commands the largest share of the budget at $559 million. Rabis discussed plans to upgrade 18 substations, rebuild circuits, and standardize voltage to improve recovery times following severe weather events. Voltage standardization is crucial as it allows for quicker restoration by tying into neighboring circuits. Although these measures will not completely prevent outages, they aim to reduce their frequency and duration, thereby minimizing the impact on customers.

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Accommodating the growing demand for electric vehicles and other elements of an increasingly electrified society is also a priority for JC P&L. The additional capacity planned for the infrastructure is aimed at supporting these future demands. The plan includes a thorough discussion on substation modernization and incorporates a $100 million program to enhance remote access and automation capabilities.

The investment is expected to yield approximately $3.36 billion in reliability benefits to customers. The financial strategy for the plan considers incremental rate increases over five years.

Questions from the commissioners during a subsequent Q&A session focused on average electricity usage, tree clearing programs, and the specifics of substation upgrades. It was clarified that the tree clearing is a separate program and that the current plan is dedicated to infrastructure improvements without the need for demolition or rebuilding of substations.

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In addition to the infrastructure plan, the meeting touched upon other issues, including the Sussex County Water Quality Management Plan and its amendments. The plan, which governs wastewater disposal systems and sewer service areas, is undergoing an update process. One specific amendment discussed was for a site on Demers Road in Sparta Township. Concerns were raised about the accuracy and relevance of the data used in the Sussex County Strategic Growth Plan, last updated in 2007, and the need for more current plans.

The meeting also addressed the recognition of November as Veterans Month and March 10th through 16th as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. However, these acknowledgments were briefly overshadowed by an incident where an individual wearing a shirt with inappropriate writing caused a disruption and was asked to leave the meeting.

Amidst the array of topics, the public comments section revealed issues, with community members expressing strong opinions. The most dramatic moments included allegations of Stolen Valor against a commissioner and calls for his resignation. Additionally, concerns were raised about the impact of broadband initiatives, a temporary traffic light, and the prolonged closure of a bridge affecting local residents.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

County Administrator:
Ron Tappan
County Council Officials:
Jill Space, Chris Carney, Jack DeGroot, William Hayden

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