The legacy of the pandemic
JPS' explanation for high electricity bills
JPS suffered significant foreign currency losses of approximately US$5.8 million over the year as a result of the volatility in the US$:J$ foreign exchange rate.

The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) has indicated that despite positive out-turns for 2021, there were roadblocks and hurdles along the way.

The company published in its annual report that net profit came in at US$42.1 million in 2021, compared to US$31.1 million the previous year.

Overall operating revenues were US$973.4 million, a 9.5 per cent increase over the previous year.

JPS attributed this success to an improvement in economic activity, an increase in tariffs following the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) review of its five-year rate application, reduced net finance costs and the generation of income outside of its core activities.

But the company admitted that "the legacy of the pandemic made it more expensive to produce electricity."

JPS noted that global supply chain disruptions and increases in fuel and other commodity prices sent up the cost of electricity.

A joint statement from JPS President & CEO Michel Gantois and chairman of the board Yong Hyun Kim said, "We suffered significant foreign currency losses of approximately US$5.8 million over the year as a result of the volatility in the US$:J$ foreign exchange rate. Because most of our cash outflows are in US dollars and most of our cash inflows are Jamaican dollars, we were forced to seek US dollars on the open market — at times, at very expensive rates — to satisfy our US dollar obligations."

A Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) lineman at work.

But the company stressed that those challenges did not prevent JPS from making investments to improve its service. The company pointed out that it invested approximately US$67.7 million in capital projects across all areas its operations — from power generation, transmission and distribution, to innovation and technology and customer service throughout the year.

Meanwhile, there were also improvements in grid stability and reliability as the company focused more on upgrading transformers, poles and other related hardware equipment to current industry standards and intensified vegetation control activities.

"There was a 10 per cent reduction in forced outages — compared to 2020 — as a result of better control of vegetation and the installation of new technology on the distribution network," the joint statement outlined.

Overall, JPS recorded its best reliability performance in five years, both in terms of the frequency and duration of outages.

The average number of times customers experienced outages was 6.5, compared to 7.9 in 2020. The average duration of outages was 20.3 hours, compared to 23.2 hours in 2020.

JPS admitted that this is still much too long, but noted it is quite an improvement over the 28.4 hours recorded five years ago, in 2017.

At the same time, the president and chairman could give no assurances that electricity prices will ease soon.

"The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is in full swing. Even though it's thousands of miles away, this war has immediate and drastic consequences for the price of fuel and other commodities and will likely impact the cost of electricity for our customers. This is as disturbing to us as it is to you. We promise to manage what's in our control, to contain our costs and to do everything we can to serve you as best as possible in the months ahead," the statement closed.

Andrew Laidley

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