Two of New Jersey's largest power utilities expect to spend at least $6.5 billion to protect systems from more severe weather after suffering massive damage last fall in Superstorm Sandy.

Public Service Electric & Gas, Newark, has asked state regulators to approve a $3.9-billion infrastructure plan for electric and natural-gas systems and also plans to spend $1.5 billion on transmission in the next 10 years. Jersey Central Power & Light, part of First Energy, Akron, Ohio, has applied for a $2.6-billion block grant for storm hardening. "We must focus on the resiliency of our systems to withstand natural disasters," says Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSE&G's parent firm. The state's entire energy infrastructure must be rethought, he says. Planned upgrades would have reduced the two million outages from Sandy by 800,000 and would have protected Newark Airport and oil refineries from shutdown, Izzo says.

Planned upgrades include $1.7 billion to raise, relocate or protect all switching stations and substations affected by recent storms and those located in newly set FEMA flood zones, says Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president. Sandy knocked 21 substations and switching stations out of service; Hurricane Irene damaged 13 in 2011. PSE&G says this work could be done in five years. It also would spend $1 billion to replace and modernize 750 miles of low-pressure cast- iron gas mains in or near flood areas.

JCP&L would strengthen its system by raising substations and making other upgrades, says a spokesman. It is completing a review of substations and switching stations at risk of flooding and soon will propose measures that can harden the system against severe storms. It will invest about $200 million this year to expand and strengthen infrastructure, including upgrading 90 distribution circuits and installing new wire and other improvements to reduce outages on key distribution lines.