AKRON, Ohio, Nov. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) has announced that it plans to invest an additional $2.8 billion over four years to expand its previously announced "Energizing the Future" transmission initiative. The main focus of the initial construction effort will be the 69 kilovolt (kV) transmission power lines and substations in the Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, Toledo Edison and Penn Power areas. The program is expected to be expanded into other FirstEnergy service territories during the next several years. "Our work on the backbone of our network will focus on enhancing the service reliability to the communities, businesses and homes in our service areas," said Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive officer, FirstEnergy. "The average age for much of this equipment is more than 40 years old. Our goal is to replace outdated equipment with state-of-the-art 'smart' technology that can be operated remotely in order to help prevent some outages from occurring. And if an outage does occur, the new equipment can help reduce the number of customers who are affected, and shorten the duration." Work on these new "Energizing the Future" projects is expected to begin in 2014 and continue through 2017. The 69 kV system is the vital link between the high voltage transmission lines and the distribution network that provides power to end-use customers. As part of this program, approximately 7,200 circuit miles of 69 kV and higher transmission lines will be evaluated and rebuilt, as needed. More than 170 substations will be inspected and upgraded, along with 70,000 transmission structures that will be evaluated and rebuilt, as needed. The scope of the work will involve adding redundancies to the network, which is another step designed to enhance customer service reliability. Work also will be done to improve security at substations by adding new fencing, thermal imaging devices, and various surveillance options.