New Jersey customers won't face an immediate increase in their electric bills because of the costs of restoring power after Hurricane Sandy and the recent nor'easter.

The efforts by utilities to recover their expenses must be part of a basic request for a rate increase to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Those cases usually take a year or more to decide.

Stefanie Brand, director of the state agency that represents utility customers, says she wants to make sure any rate increase will be as low as possible.

"The last thing we want to do here is have the people who are the victims of this storm become victims again because the rates double or triple," says Brand who heads the state Division of Rate Counsel.

Brand says any rate hike should be spread out over time to reduce the impact on customers who already pay the sixth highest electric rates in the nation.

She also wants to make sure utilities had been spending the money they should have on equipment and tree trimming to help prevent storm damage.