Penelec to invest $288 million in transmission upgrades

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FirstEnergy Corp. plans to invest $228 million in 2014 in service reliability infrastructure upgrades in its Pennsylvania Electric Co. (Penelec) 31-county service territory.

This represents about a $66 million increase compared to what the company invested in similar transmission infrastructure projects in the region last year.

Major projects scheduled for this year include building new or upgrading 142 existing distribution circuits, ongoing tree trimming programs, and inspecting and replacing utility poles. In addition, other projects will include the installation of automated and remote control devices designed to enhance Penelec's electric system and reliability.

Of FirstEnergy's $228 million infrastructure investment in the region for 2014, about $49 million will be for transmission-related projects built and owned by Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Co., a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate.

The scheduled projects include:

·      Upgrading distribution circuit equipment by installing new sectionalizing devices, such as fuses and reclosers, to help limit the scope of outages across the entire Penelec service territory. The cost of this project is about $5.6 million.

·      Installing radio controlled switches that can be operated remotely from the company dispatch center, giving our system operators the ability to restore power quickly and efficiently.

·      Installing equipment to help maintain proper voltage levels. This is expected to benefit Penelec's industrial and large commercial customers that operate large motors, drives and other machinery.

·      Inspecting about 41,000 utility poles and making replacements, as needed. This inspection process is conducted on a 12-year cycle. Inspections began in January, with replacement work scheduled to be completed throughout the fall.

·      Investing about $23.6 million as part of Penelec's ongoing tree trimming program to help maintain proper clearances and protect against tree-related storm damage. Trees are the leading cause of power outages in Pennsylvania.

Penelec serves about 600,000 customers in 31 Pennsylvania counties.

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