ALLENTOWN, Pa., Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- PPL Electric Utilities will invest nearly $1 billion this year to improve the reliability of the system that delivers power to its nearly 1.4 million customers. The projected investment of $968 million includes roughly $616 million for transmission projects, and is the largest scale infrastructure investment since the 1960s and 1970s. About $352 million is earmarked for projects to upgrade the distribution network, which delivers power directly to homes and businesses and includes the poles, wires and substations typically seen along local streets and highways. Nearly 250 larger projects are scheduled this year, along with other work across the system also aimed at improving reliability, including limiting the size and duration of outages. In addition to the PPL Electric Utilities workforce, more than 900 tradespeople and other professionals will be working on the utility's system to support the planned work this year. In addition, the projects provide business for industries such as pole and wire manufacturers. "This is an important time in the history of the company," said PPL Electric Utilities President Gregory N. Dudkin. "The investments this year and the nearly $3.8 billion we're looking to invest over the next five years are aimed squarely at one thing — strengthening our system so our customers can depend on safe and reliable service well into the future." (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130220/PH63433 ) The utility's capital investments have been on the upswing for the past several years. In 2009, the company invested $301 million. That figure increased to $429 million in 2010 and to $684 million last year. Work has included replacing aged equipment and power lines, upgrading other electrical facilities, and building new lines and substations where needed. The company is investing in automated technology to help create a smarter electric grid, one devoted to reducing the frequency and duration of outages. In addition, it is exploring options to provide additional customer benefits through its advanced metering system, which already provides data for the Energy Analyzer tool.