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FirstEnergy Corporation’s (FE - Analyst Report) business wing Jersey Central Power & Light announced its plans to invest $200.0 million in 2013 for the development and modernization of existing infrastructures in New Jersey as well as to fund the ongoing restoration works in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

The company had spent an equal amount in 2012 for the same purpose and expects these infrastructure initiatives to enhance daily service reliability for customers along with making their systems suitable for future load growth.

The program’s objectives include progress of key projects lined up in 2013 like the completion of a new substation and existing vegetation management initiatives. Other activities involved are construction of new circuits, supervising and altering utility poles and replacing underground cables.

The investment goals include a series of crucial programs like modernization of 90 distribution circuits by providing animal guards, spacer cable and replacing new wires to aid in minimizing outages in Jersey territories. For this, the company will shell out $2.5 million and expects to conclude building a new circuit in the Riverdale-Butler province in Morris County which will help expand capacity to absorb more loads and safeguard against power supply loss.

In addition to this FirstEnergy is looking to complete and activate the Tewksbury substation in Hunterdon County which will cost about $4.0 million and will offer additional circuits to boost indigenous distribution systems and reduce the duration of outages. Furthermore, power poles scrutiny is expected to begin in spring with the company contemplating to add new poles and conductors in Morris County. The company will also be involved in changing the underground cables in Manchester Township, Ocean County.

Other ventures include building a circuit connecting the Larabee and Howell substations to support load and installing systems to examine voltage levels. Further, FirstEnergy is expected to carry on works like pruning trees which will help alleviate damage to distribution facilities arising from falling tree limbs.

Meanwhile, FirstEnergy’s ambitious Local Infrastructure and Transmission Enhancement program that started in 2011 will further witness investments worth $17.0 million. Upcoming midstream projects under the scheme include upgrading the 230 kilovolt (kV) line in Monmouth and Ocean County, construction of a 115 kV line stretching from Monmouth to Wyckoff station, improving the 230 kV facility at Eaton Crest substation and installing new features at the Raritan Substation in Middlesex County. These initiatives are aimed at increasing capacity and service reliability for customers.

Although the company is likely to incur higher costs for these programs, the mix of infrastructure and midstream asset development initiatives will support its broad growth objectives.

FirstEnergy is expected to release its fourth quarter and full year 2012 financial results on Feb 25, 2013. FirstEnergy carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

We presently prefer Zacks Ranked #1 (Strong Buy) utility operator, Otter Tail Corporation (OTTR - Snapshot Report) and Zacks Ranked #2 (Buy) Pike Electric Corporation (PIKE - Snapshot Report) as well as CMS Energy Inc. (CMS - Analyst Report).

Headquartered in Akron, OH, FirstEnergy Corp. together with its subsidiaries engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. With a market capitalization of $16.69 billion, the company has 20,000 total employees.

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