The Silicon Review
Headquartered in Folsom, New Jersey, SJI is an energy services holding company that delivers energy solutions to its customers through three primary subsidiaries. The holding company for SJI's regulated natural gas utilities, SJI Utilities, serves more than 700,000 customers across New Jersey through its two utilities, South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas. Its non-utility businesses within SJI Energy Enterprises Group prioritize wholesale commodity marketing, asset optimization, and fuel supply management. SJI Midstream houses the company’s interest in the PennEast Pipeline project.
South Jersey Industries prides itself on being a committed community partner. It assists local, regional, and statewide organizations that deliver need-based support, provide vital funding and contribute countless volunteer hours that benefit the communities they serve. During 2020 these efforts included:
SJI is truly committed to generating long-term value through operations, sustainable investments, mutually beneficial partnerships, and innovative relationships. To understand more about the company's efforts, we recently interviewed Mike Renna, President and CEO of SJI.
Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. Could you tell us about your journey so far?
In 2018, SJI became one of the largest natural gas providers in New Jersey with the acquisition of Elizabethtown Gas. That same year, SJI created SJI Utilities – a holding company for its regulated natural gas utility businesses South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas – to establish a consistent strategy across our regulated utility operations. As we continue to transform our business for the future, we promise to maintain our commitment to sustainability, reinforcing the foundation for continued business growth, innovation, and a clean energy future for our region.
Q. What makes South Jersey Industries relevant in today’s times?
A lot has changed since our company started more than a hundred years ago. Still, one thing that remains the same is our mission to deliver safe, reliable, affordable clean energy for a better today and tomorrow.
SJI is dedicated to working with all energy industry stakeholders, as well as our customers and regulators, to ensure a balanced approach to addressing our region’s energy needs. We are committed to driving down energy costs, reducing emissions, improving environmental outcomes and delivering safe and reliable service, all while improving energy efficiency.
Q. How important is ‘safety’ to what you are delivering as an energy services company?
Safety is a core value at SJI. Our safety efforts in 2020 resulted in the American Gas Association (AGA) recognizing South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas as 1st Quartile in safety performance. In addition, the American Gas Association issued both entities “Industry Leader Accident Prevention” safety awards.
We use cutting-edge technology like virtual reality to train our technicians, and our field crews are held to the highest standards when working in and driving through neighborhoods. We also work alongside first responder agencies to provide training on gas-related emergencies. We offer employees safety talking points for team meetings, safety minutes at each meeting, IT/Security/Vehicle training, and a monthly safety magazine is sent directly to their homes.
We’ve also made investments to modernize our infrastructure, ensuring that our system is safe, reliable, and resilient. In 2020, SJI invested roughly $135 million to replace vintage bare steel and cast-iron mains and services. We also focused on storm-hardening measures around vulnerable coastal communities. We also share safety information with our customers regularly.
Q. What are the modern challenges that you encounter in the energy sector today? How are you tackling them?
Climate change is a modern challenge that SJI works tirelessly to address. Through the guidance of our newly formed Clean Energy and Sustainability team, we have outlined and begun to implement strategies to mitigate our climate risk by enhancing our energy efficiency efforts and reducing carbon emissions from our operations by 70% by the year 2030. Through a new series of sustainability initiatives, SJI is on course to achieve 100% carbon reduction by 2040 and significantly reduce the fossil fuel consumption of our utility customers.
We’re certain natural gas and the solid infrastructure we have in place will continue to play a role in the future of energy delivery. Every day we look for ways to create cleaner fuel sources through renewable energy.
Q. Tell us about the company’s work culture. How do you help your employees grow?
SJI encourages employees to “bring their whole self to work” every day by fostering an engaging and inclusive work environment. Together, our 1,121 employees drive growth for our business, deliver on our core mission of providing safe, reliable, affordable energy, and help us achieve our vision of a clean energy future.
At SJI, we offer training, a performance management program, career development and networking opportunities. We also offer early-career internships, co-ops and professional rotational programs. For our more experienced employees, we offer a leadership development program. Our four employee resource groups provide an opportunity for employees to network and grow professionally.
Q. How did you help out since the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our employees show tremendous resilience and dedication to exceptional service. Across SJI, teams came together to deliver critical energy safely and without interruption to the homes, businesses, schools and hospitals that depend on us. Recognizing that the pandemic would have a significantly adverse impact on the economy, at the outset of the public health emergency we immediately put in place a moratorium on service shut-offs for non-payment; ensuring that our customers would have continued access to natural gas regardless of their ability to pay.
Moreover, recognizing the extraordinary needs facing our healthcare communities, SJI contributed $50,000 to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. These funds went directly toward organizations and front-line personnel that provided medical, social, and economic assistance to New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities. Additionally, South Jersey Gas made a $25,000 donation to the AtlantiCare Foundation. Elizabethtown Gas supported the Trinitas Health Foundation with a donation of the same value. Both organizations are located within our utilities’ service areas.
To help customers in financial distress, we utilized every channel available to inform them about energy assistance programs, and we provided direct assistance through community partnerships. We also held an energy assistance summit to educate customers and social services providers of the many tools and resources available to ensure energy security.
To support operations and programming challenges during the pandemic, SJI made corporate donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City, the Boys and Girls Club of Union County, the Community Food Bank of NJ, Union County College Foundation and the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County.