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FirstEnergy's (FE) Unit Ends Tree-Trimming Project for Winter

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FirstEnergy Corporation (FE - Free Report) unit, The Illuminating Company, recently completed the vegetation management of a complex $3-million tree-trimming project for nearly 100 power lines in the City of Cleveland. The project will ensure better upkeep of trees, enhance electric service reliability for more than 25,000 customers and provide greater flexibility to restore power outages during the upcoming winter storm season.

The tree-trimming inspection is funded by a $16.5-million investment made by the unit in tree-trimming activities throughout its entire service area in 2022. The project has been completed on a four-year cycle within FirstEnergy's service territory.

Need for Maintenance

A fall in temperature, accompanied by heavy snowfall and wind movement, not only increases the demand for electricity but also creates a threat to electric infrastructure. Maintaining vegetation along power lines is the first defense mechanism in preventing tree-related power outages. This ensures that transmission lines operate properly during winter storms and efficiently transfer high-voltage power from generation units to designated locations.

FirstEnergy is working steadily on maintaining its infrastructure. It employs tree contractors annually who work round the year to ensure proper vegetation management in the company’s electric lines. The tree-trimming work recently completed is part of the $1.2-million project to remove overgrown trees and debris from the path of power lines in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.

From the beginning of the year, contractors have trimmed trees along more than 1,500 miles of power lines throughout the company's service area. The project is on track to finish another 500 miles of tree-trimming work by the end of the year.

Utilities’ Focus on Infrastructure

To provide a 24X7 electricity supply for consumers, utilities are investing heavily in strengthening their infrastructure. They are replacing old transmission and distribution lines, undergrounding distribution lines and adopting technological upgrades to increase the resiliency of infrastructure for withstanding the impact of extreme weather conditions. To name a few are Xcel Energy (XEL - Free Report) , NiSource (NI - Free Report) and Pinnacle West Capital (PNW - Free Report) .

Xcel Energy continues to invest substantially in its utility assets and aims to strengthen and expand its transmission, distribution electric generation and renewable projects. XEL aims to spend $26 billion during the 2022-2026 period, which includes $1.5 to $2.5 billion in incremental opportunities.

NiSource is working on a long-term utility infrastructure modernization program and made capital investments worth $1.9 billion in 2021 and plans to invest in the range of $2.4-$2.7 billion in 2022. NI estimated $40-billion long-term natural gas and electric infrastructure investment opportunities, which are expected to drive earnings beyond 2024.

To efficiently serve its expanding customer base, Pinnacle West Capital has systematic investment plans to increase generation and strengthen its transmission and distribution lines. After investing $1.5 billion in 2021, it aims at investing $1.53 billion in 2022.  Pinnacle West Capital also plans to invest $4.7 billion during the 2022-2024 period.

Zacks Rank & Price Performance

Currently, FirstEnergy carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). In the past three months, shares of FE have rallied 14.0% compared with the industry’s growth of 8.7%. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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