Report: PSE&G projects power the economy, too

Discussing PSE&G's role in N.J.'s economy are (from left) Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Joseph Seneca, Assemblyman Joseph Egan, and PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa.

New Jersey's largest utility says the $8.1 billion it is spending over 10 years on transmission projects is powering more than the electrical grid - it's putting a lot of juice into the state's economy.

Public Service Electric & Gas Co. released Wednesday a Rutgers University economic report it commissioned that estimates the utility's power-transmission projects are creating an average of 6,000 jobs a year over a decade.

The 12-page report by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers was released at a rally at an electrical workers' union hall in North Brunswick that seemed aimed at building political and public support for more energy infrastructure projects.

Labor and political leaders lauded PSE&G for creating jobs during the economic downturn, and PSE&G praised the leaders, in return, for their support.

"PSE&G's investments have taken many of our skilled members off the bench and put them to work making New Jersey a better place to live," said Assemblyman Joseph V. Egan (D., Somerset), business agent for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 456, whose headquarters hosted the event.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), an Ironworkers leader who was called a "rock star" by PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa, said he was disappointed that New Jersey utility regulators did not approve more PSE&G construction projects.

Seven PSE&G transmission-line projects - those are the high-voltage lines that transmit power over longer distances - supported as many as 11,000 jobs last year, said Joseph Seneca, the professor who compiled the report. That would mean PSE&G transmission projects accounted for more than half the 19,800 private-sector jobs created last year in New Jersey.

Of the $8.1 billion in total expenditures, the Rutgers report said, nearly $5.9 billion, or 72.6 percent, are made in New Jersey. Of these, about $3.3 billion are allocated to construction labor, with $1.1 billion allocated to construction material and equipment, as well as electrical equipment and components.

The remaining $1.4 billion is allocated to various construction-related services, including planning, program management, engineering, PSE&G internal functions, and government-permitting costs.

Seneca said the study looked only at the economic benefits of the money spent on the transmission projects, not on the impact on New Jersey ratepayers.

LaRossa said it was difficult to estimate the effect on customers because some transmission charges are expected to go down because of reduced congestion from the new improvements.

The head of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, Jeff Tittel, said PSE&G's transmission-line spending was profitable for the company and bad for ratepayers, and that it fails to support a shift to more local renewable-power sources that are less reliant on the conventional power grid.

"It's like investing in a '57 Edsel when we have Teslas," said Tittel.

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