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Customers upset at JPS proposed request for rate hike

'Unacceptable!'

Thursday, April 17, 2014    

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CONSUMERS, already angered by their ballooning electricity bills, on Monday rebuffed the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) proposed request for an increase in rates and branded it as "unacceptable".

The grouses were raised during the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) public consultation meeting at Ardenne High School in St Andrew, where the JPS was branded as "disingenuous", and accused of asking for the increase to secure a "guaranteed revenue stream".

The JPS has proposed an average overall increase of 19 per cent on the bills of residential customers, with the first 100 kilowatt hours of monthly consumption being significantly discounted as a way to reduce overall costs for the residential users.

The light and power company has also proposed the introduction of new tiers for energy charges, with higher rates at the top tier of consumption for residential customers.

In addition, the utility company has also put forward an average overall increase of 15 per cent on the bills of the rate 20 commercial class, but these customers will experience declining rates as their consumption increases.

According to the company, these increases are to facilitate the growth of the company and the country. But consumers who attended Monday's consultation session rejected the proposal.

"You asking for 21 per cent increase is going in the wrong direction," said West Kingston Resident Earl Dawkins, who had a long list of "burning questions". Although there was only one person waiting behind him, he was asked by the moderator to give other people a chance.

But a determined Dawkins, after pointing out that there was no line behind him, proceeded with his questions and comments, which were aimed at the OUR representatives present and JPS President and Chief Executive Officer Kelly Tomblin.

"I must also advise or remind OUR that they must never be a rubber stamp for this consideration," he said.

Then to Tomblin: "Based on your application, what you're requesting on the non-fuel portion of your bill is 70 per cent increase and that is totally unacceptable."

He was also not in favour of the proposed flat rate for communities that are not on the grid but use electricity, saying that was rewarding "persons for stealing".

He also rejected JPS' request for an increase from 17.5 per cent 29.5 per cent in the cost paid by consumers for system loss.

Dawkins was supported by another disgruntled customer in Kirk Wignall.

"What the JPS is asking for is a guaranteed revenue stream, so if we as customers decide to tighten our belts and decrease our demand and you don't collect the revenue that you expect to collect, then you want to push the rate up so you can get that revenue, and my advice to the OUR would be to throw that revenue cap through the door and go for a price cap," he said.

Meanwhile another consumer, Allan Searchwell, threatened to boycott the JPS. He queried how the company was dealing with competition from the alternative energy sector given the fact that the alternative energy is reducing while the JPS' fuel bill kept rising.

During the meeting, Tomblin explained that the increase was needed to allow for continued investment in company's infrastructure and to keep its largest customers on the grid to spur economic growth, support job creation and stimulate electricity demand that ultimately leads to lower prices.

"We are trying to keep our largest customers on the grid, reflecting that it costs us less to serve them and also with the recognition that when they go off the grid it is going to cost us more anyway," Tomblin said.

She explained that JPS was asking for a $350 increase for most of its residential customers, about 41 per cent, and a higher rates for those who use more than 500 kilowatt-hours.

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