FirstEnergy Corp. is planning a $2.8 billion investment in transmission capability across much of its footprint, an initiative that will help support potential activity in the Marcellus and Utica shales.
Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy’s announcement Tuesday involves 69 kilovolt transmission power lines and substations in Penn Power, Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and Toledo Edison regions. That means a large swath of FirstEnergy’s footprint will be involved in what it’s calling the “Energizing the Future” initiative, including New Castle and Sharon, but not immediately Pittsburgh. The first part of the project is set to start in 2014 and continue through 2017, although more of southwestern Pennsylvania could be involved in the next few years, according to a FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) spokesman.
A key part of the initiative is expanding electrical capacity in the shale gas regions of eastern Ohio and part of Pennsylvania for natural gas drilling and supporting industries.
“We want to already have it in the ground, ready to go, as those businesses expand due to expanded gas production,” spokesman Mark Durbin told the Pittsburgh Business Times.
The improvement project, which will include smart technology, will also increase reliability.
“The average age for much of this equipment is more than 40 years old,” FirstEnenrgy CEO Anthony J. Alexander said in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to replace outdated equipment with state-of-the-art ‘smart’ technology that can be operated remotely in order to help prevent some outages from occurring. And if an outage does occur, the new equipment can help reduce the number of customers who are affected, and shorten the duration.”