Business

JPS public image improved despite soar in power theft

Friday, May 02, 2014    

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POWER distribution monopoly, Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) said that its public image improved significantly last year despite a 56 per cent jump in power theft to US$43.5 million ($4.7 billion).

"A primary focus of JPS in 2013 was creating a positive public image," said the light and power company in its latest annual report. "The results were encouraging. A comparison of the media exposure for 2012 and 2013 shows a significant improvement in positive references to the company and an increase in neutral references / objective discussions about JPS - even by media personnel."

JPS's campaign involved building and strengthening of relationships with key stakeholder groups; creating and maintaining a positive media presence; improving general understanding of JPS' operations; establishing and utilising the JPS Foundation to support national development; and increasing the visibility of employee involvement in the community.

Additionally, JPS appointed its first female President Kelley Tomlin, who focused on humanising the monopoly.

"A new focus on new media also made significant impact in the transformation of the company's image and reach," said the report. "A social media and online communications manager was hired, which resulted in JPS's social media presence growing significantly, facilitating a more direct relationship with more of our customers.

"During the year, our social media reach recorded a growth of more than 160 per cent in our dedicated audience (Fans/ Followers), which stood at approximately 42,000 at the end of 2013 (combination of JPS & eStore Facebook, Twitter, Issuu and LinkedIn platforms)."

Despite the campaign, theft remained a perennial problem at the light and power company due to throw up lines and meter tampering. Theft affected its profitability which dipped to US$9.2 million from US$12.3 million in 2012.

JPS told the Observer that the police arrested over 42 persons for the illegal abstraction of electricity between January and March 2014 . Additionally, JPS teams have removed in excess of 26,000 'throw ups' predominantly from Kingston & St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Elizabeth. Last year, over 1,200 persons were arrested for power theft.

Power theft forms part of overall system loss which was 25.88 per cent for 2013 or US$74.5 million.

"System losses was a critical area of focus for JPS in 2013," said the company's annual report. "A number of initiatives were undertaken in an effort to curtail the trend of deteriorating losses, and a centralised team was formed to coordinate and monitor the losses activities with the regional field service and operations teams. Through coordinated 'Strike Force' activities, a total of 197,646 illegal lines were removed from the grid, and, with the assistance of the police, 1,246 persons were arrested for illegal abstraction of electricity."

In April 2011, Japan-based Marubeni Corporation entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Korea East-West Power, for joint ownership of 80 per cent in the JPS. The Government of Jamaica and a small group of minority shareholders own the remaining shares.

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