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PM condemns electricity theft by constituents

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 21, 2014    

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PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller yesterday condemned the stealing of electricity by residents of her South West St Andrew constituency, following a report by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) that 70 per cent of households were illegally connected to the grid of the light and power company.

During a tour of the North/South highway project being undertaken by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), Simpson Miler told the Jamaica Observer that she was against the stealing of energy and called on her constituents to end the thievery.

"I have always spoken out against it. I do not agree with the stealing of light and that will always be my position," Simpson Miller said.

Chief executive officer of the JPS Kelly Tomblin said last week that some 200,000 households were stealing electricity and had racked up a bill of US$73 million in the last two years.

Just yesterday the JPS launched phase two of its drive to reduce the theft of electricity by some households in sections of Olympic Gardens and surrounding areas -- an area which lies in the constituency of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness.

The company began transferring houses to the Residential Advanced Metering Infrastructure (RAMI) in an effort to reduce the burdensome costs associated with electricity theft. The targeted areas include Lindene Drive, Wint Road, Relay Road, McKinley Road, Australia Road, Holt Road, Binns Road, Collies Road, Cricket Crescent, Bay Farm Villa, Rhoden Road, Scarlett Road, Ray Street, as well as sections of Olympic Way and Bay Farm Road.

In Simpson Miller's stronghold of Majesty Gardens, also known as 'Back To', as well as sections of Spanish Town Road, electricity theft is high.

Phase one of the regularisation drive was conducted at the start of the month and the company reported that 994 paying customers were transferred to the RAMI, while 492 newly regularised customers signed on to the new system.

The light and power company said about 200 applicants registered late, but signalled its commitment to speed up those applications in order to have those persons connected soon.

"The company continues to appeal to residents who have had their premises certified by the Government Electrical Inspectorate to complete the legalisation process by signing contracts. JPS has been working in those areas for over a year, ensuring that the appropriate infrastructure is in place and promoting awareness among residents about the electricity regularisation exercise," a JPS release said.

The installation of the RAMI is part of a multi-pronged anti-theft initiative that JPS has been implementing. The company also has also embarked on a drive to remove 'throw-ups', ramped up meter inspections, and has been conducting account audits.

Last week, Tomblin bemoaned the fact that energy thieves had cost the company US$73 million or 18 per cent of the company's fuel bill. She said illegal users consumed three times as much energy as paying customers and make no effort to conserve energy. Getting them on the grid would reduce the burden on paying customers and bring electricity bills down by 11 per cent, she said.

Meanwhile, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, while disagreeing with a recent move by JPS to shut down power in communities that had between 70 and 89 per cent levels of theft, voiced its support for the company's drive to stamp out electricity theft.

"We understand and fully support the organisation's determination to minimise or eliminate the endemic practice by an alarming number of consumers of stealing electricity supplies, a practice that not only represents a danger to public safety, but also represents a tax on law-abiding consumers who are forced to underwrite the resulting losses," the chamber said in a release Monday.

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