Energy Minister Urges JPS to Re-think Transformer Disconnection Project

Energy Minister, Hon Daryl Vaz says that the current approach of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) to manage the problematic issue of premature failure of its transformers, lines and other equipment is disenfranchising several paying customers on a daily basis which is highly unacceptable.  The Minister noted his disappointment that neither the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) nor the Ministry was informed about this practice which started in March 2021.

“Those paying customers face a double jeopardy: they are paying their electricity bill and they are already paying 15-17% on that bill to compensate for electricity theft. It is not good business practice and it does not allow for good customer relations to turn around and punish legitimate customers twice by disconnecting their power supply.” The Minister said that it could not be lost on the JPS the severe hardship that its actions would have posed on its paying customers and urges an immediate re-think of the strategy.

He admitted that the issue of electricity theft was a difficult one which no doubt affects the operations of the JPS, but noted that solutions should be explored through consultation, collaboration and community engagement. The Minister noted that the sustainable reduction in electricity theft which contributes to transformer failures cannot be achieved without a mix of approaches including the strengthening of the policy, legislative and social security frameworks and improvements in technological and institutional capacities. In addition, the Minister said that “The JPS needs to quicken the pace of more wide scale adoption of smart technologies and the utilization of solutions that will allow poor Jamaicans to buy and manage their electricity use within their budget similarly to what obtains in the telecommunications sector”.

“As I said in my Sectoral Presentation in mid-May, electricity theft is an old problem in Jamaica that we have failed to address in a sustainable way. I informed the country that the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology would be approaching the issue from a policy perspective with help from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and through a targeted community-based initiative in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)”.

The Ministry has received an Inception Report from the IDB with a timeline for the development of a National Electricity Loss Reduction Plan for the country. The USAID led community engagement intervention has brought stakeholders from the IDB, JPS, and MSET to develop the enhanced community engagement metrics to determine the efficacy of community engagement and loss reduction programme in an effort to improve sustainability of community strategies.

The Minister noted that since 2014 some seven initiatives have been implemented by the JPS to, among other things, reduce tampering, detect losses and improve measurement. “The time is now to admit that we have a problem in the country with many Jamaicans not being able to afford to pay light bill, some who can afford but are unwilling to regularize and some who are willing to regularize put are experiencing other challenges such as proof of ownership or occupancy and the poor state of houses which are unsafe for wiring.

While there are no quick fixes, elected representatives, community influencers and state and non-state actors must work together within appropriate policy, legislative and social security frameworks to find sustainable solutions, Minister Vaz noted.

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Contact:

Mrs. Sandra Graham,

Principal Director, Corporate Services Division

Tel: (876) 441-4552

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