OUR wants JPS to say why power being cut in some communities
THE Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has summoned Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) officials to a meeting today as public anger grows over the company's decision to cut the number of hours that power is provided to some communities in an effort to combat electricity theft.
The regulator said it requested the meeting after being alerted about the matter by its Consumer Affairs Unit, which received complaints from the public, as well as JPS's own news release on the issue yesterday.
According to the JPS, it took the decision as part of a strategy to get more persons in communities where more than 70 per cent of the power is stolen to pay for the electricity they use, and reduce the overall cost to paying customers.
"The communities to be affected in the initial phase of this curtailment strategy are Jones Town, Seaward Drive, Trench Town, Denham Town, Rema, Maxfield Avenue, Central Village, and Spanish Town Road," JPS said, adding that it "has been working with these communities for some time, with limited success, and continues to encourage illegal users to take immediate steps to have their service regularised".
"We have tried everything to reduce electricity theft," the JPS release quoted Gary Barrow, the company's senior vice-president for energy delivery.
"Our efforts have included a combination of initiatives, such as the removal of illegal 'throw up' lines, account audits and meter investigations, arrests in collaboration with the police, community intervention, and the installation of costly technology solutions. The company also has more than 200 employees working to reduce losses," Barrow said.
The company, which some years ago launched a compliance campaign with the tag line 'How Come?', explained that in 2013 it removed more than 197,000 illegal lines, carried out more than 113,000 account audits and meter investigations, and facilitated the arrest of more than 1,200 persons for electricity theft.
It also said that it has installed more 7,600 Residential Automated Metering Infrastructure meters, but most of the potential customers targeted have not signed up for legal service.
According to the power company, its efforts to serve paying customers in communities with high levels of theft continue to be hampered by extensive damage to its equipment and ongoing power outages caused by illegal connections.
"Customers also suffer significant damage to their appliances and equipment as a result of the system overload caused by illegal connections," JPS said.
As such, the company said that it "will make an effort to provide electricity for not less than 12 hours per day, and will remain sensitive to the safety concerns of the residents".
The firm added that it "was also making every effort to minimise the impact on businesses, hospitals, and schools in these communities".
In a letter to the JPS yesterday, the OUR asked for "critical information, such as the number of paying residential and commercial customers in the affected areas, and the alleged level of damage done to JPS equipment as a result of electricity theft in these communities".
The OUR said it was treating this issue with the highest priority, given the impact on legitimate customers in these communities.