JPS promises improved energy sector performance
Acknowledging that the number and duration of power outages are hurting the island, Jamaica Public Service (JPS) president and CEO Steve Berberich has promised greater investment in system maintenance to improve reliability of power supply.
“We intend to dramatically increase the number of crews to pivot to a proactive maintenance posture and to more quickly respond to problems when they occur. My goal is to dramatically increase our reliability by investing in proactive maintenance so fewer outages occur in the first place and to be able to respond to outages much quicker when they occur,” Berberich, who has been at the helm of the utility company since May 31 this year, told a group of business leaders at a recent engagement session in Montego Bay.
The business leaders’ session was one of several events being hosted by JPS to get feedback from its customers. Attendees included representatives from the hotel and tourism sectors, business owners operating in western Jamaica, as well as political representatives.
Addressing the issue of high rates, Berberich identified electricity theft and imported fuel as two of the main contributors. He maintained that thieves must be prosecuted, but said provision needs to be made for people who are not able to afford legal service.
“Many homes don’t have adequate wiring and cannot be safely certified to receive power legitimately, so they steal it. Beyond the immense safety issue, we need to find a way to wire these homes properly. Communities have to be engaged on the issues, and politicians need to be part of that engagement. Only at the community level will real change happen. Not all communities even have the necessary infrastructure, and JPS and the Government need to work on that issue,” he stressed.
The JPS boss also shared his vision for a decarbonised grid that relies less on imported fossil fuel, indicating that this can be a catalyst for increased investment and the creation of new jobs. The vision includes facilitating open access to the grid for people who generate their own electricity, and full support for electrifying transportation across the island.
“We firmly believe the pressure to decarbonise will continue to rise. Temperatures are rising on both the land and sea, the EU (European Union) is considering cross-border tariffs based on carbon, and automakers are phasing out internal combustion engines as early as the end of this decade. This transition won’t be easy, and it will take substantial investment in terms of new facilities and new transmission to connect them to the grid. Also, some gas plants will still be needed — even with a substantial wind and solar and battery portfolio — for days when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine,” Berberich said.
He encouraged his audience to embrace the changes, despite the inherent hurdles.
“Let’s not view these things as threats or challenges, let’s embrace them. Let’s create a place the developed and developing world comes to see what’s possible when smart, energetic people do what they do here in Jamaica,” he urged.
Berberich’s commitment to improve service to customers was underscored by Pia Baker, JPS’s newly appointed senior vice-president for customer experience and commercial.
“Just five weeks ago I was only a customer of JPS, so I fully appreciate and understand the frustrations of our customers. That’s why I am really passionate about improving the overall customer experience, and not just addressing the pain points,” she told the business business leaders, adding that JPS will look differently at how it serves its customers.
“We will be adjusting our strategy to better meet your needs going forward,” she said. “What’s important is that we deliver value for money. We will ensure more seamless on-boarding of our customers, expedited execution of our services, as well as transparent communication and education for both residential and commercial customers.”
She urged the business customers to continue to provide feedback, as the company will be even more attuned to the needs of its customers and taking steps to be more proactive in addressing their needs.