Gov’t, JPS agree to installation of 105,000 LED street lights
GOVERNMENT and the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) are making some headway in negotiations over the close to $5 billion owed to the light and power company for street lights, some of which parish councils (municipal corporations) have over the years contended do not work.
The local government ministry is already more than $1.1 billion behind in JPS street light bills for the current fiscal period, in addition to the arrears dating back to 2012.
Now, as part of a thrust to slash the monthly bills they wish go to the parish councils, which are in the region of $280 million monthly (or $2.6 billion annually) the JPS will in June begin changing out 105,000 energy intensive street lamps across the island to Light-Emitting Diode (LED) and smart control lights, under a three-year programme.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Denzil Thorpe yesterday informed Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of the development which came out of a meeting with the JPS on Tuesday.
The plan is for the JPS to install 35,000 new lights for each year of the programme. “We have identified the way forward (but) the existing street light bill is a discussion that has to and is taking place at a higher level,” Thorpe noted. He explained the JPS is already carrying out field testing and has identified bidders for various aspects of the retrofitting programme.
LEDs and the smart control system are expected to bring the street light bill down by 50 to 60 per cent. The smart controller system will meter each lamp, monitor their status, and consumption so that the parish councils are only billed for what is used.
But the programme comes at a cost, the recovery mechanism for which the Government has not yet concretised with the JPS. This was of particular concern to the committee, whose members cautioned that the programme was sound in principle but that the Government should be careful that it does not end up right where it began, with a hefty tab.
Opposition member Fitz Jackson argued that the Government should not be entering into an arrangement which is set to get off the ground in another few months without knowledge of exactly how much capital funding it will have to come up with, regardless of the recovery mechanism.
Committee chairman, Dr Wykeham McNeill cautioned that: “If you don’t have negotiations right, all of this makes for naught. You may put in the entire system and at the end of the day end up paying the same amount (bill)”…we must be very careful that the implementation is done properly”.
Permanent Secretary Thorpe emphasised that the ministry is still negotiating with the JPS in regards to the back payments, but said this would not affect the retrofitting programme “The discussion that has taken place is for JPS to commence; the roll-out of the programme was not predicated on there being something significant paid (on arrears). So while we continue to negotiate where we are going with the bill that programme will still commence, because they have gone ahead and sought financing”.
The JPS has repaired 16,000 street lights since April last year, and moved the number of billable lamps down to 98,000.
— Alphea Saunders