Our electric transmission and distribution business experienced a customer growth rate of 2.45 percent, the highest in the last seven years. Operating income was $477 million, excluding amounts related to transition and system restoration bonds. This compares with $474 million in 2013.
We continued to modernize our grid and deploy intelligent grid technology. Our advanced grid routes power around problem areas and provides more accurate information about outage locations. This also allows us to more efficiently dispatch repair crews. As a result, we’ve seen a nearly 30 percent improvement in reliability where we’ve installed intelligent grid technology and a 13 percent reliability improvement systemwide.
Additionally, smart meter technology has provided measurable efficiencies through automation of routine service orders. Since we began smart meter deployment in 2009, more than a million customer phone calls have been prevented, more than a million gallons of fuel have been saved and more than 9,000 tons of carbon emissions have been avoided.
In 2014, we added nearly 55,000 metered customers, and we invested a record $818 mil-lion in capital projects. We devoted a large portion of our capital spending to modernize grid infrastructure, meet increased customer demand and improve resiliency with ongoing construction of a backup operations center. We anticipate capital spending will be more than $900 million in 2015 and will remain at similar levels through 2019.
The Houston Import Project (our portion of which is known as the Brazos Valley Connection) is a 345 kV electric transmission line planned to deliver additional power supply into our service territory from other parts of Texas. The state grid operator endorsed the need for the 130-mile line by summer 2018 to ensure adequate electric supply in the Houston area. We plan to seek Public Utility Commission of Texas approval of our portion of the project in early 2015.
We’re also serving customers better than ever. A prime example is our innovative Power Alert Service, which keeps our customers informed in the event of an outage. Enrolled customers receive a text message, email or phone call to let them know the power is out and when we expect it to be restored. Customers also receive a second message once the problem has been resolved. Already, more than 400,000 customers receive alerts through this free service.
Our leadership in the use of technology was recognized by SAP in two categories in 2014: Top Innovation for Customer Engagement and Utility of the Year, given to a utility demonstrating market presence, thought leadership, commitment to excellence and use of technology that serves as a model for the North American utility industry.