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JPS to offer prepaid meters islandwide next year

Published:Friday | December 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
A Jamaica Public Service techniciian at work seeking to regularise electricity supply in Denham Town, Kingston.
Jamaica Public Service headquarters, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston.
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Utility provider Jamaica Public Service (JPS) will offer prepaid service in all parishes next year, but expects power consumption to dip slightly in the process.

The prepaid service will become available to all residential customers who opt for it, but will not initially be offered to commercial customers.

"By the end of 2016, we will offer prepaid meters to all parishes," JPS President Kelly Tomblin told the Financial Gleaner in a telephone interview this week. "That's our goal - to focus on residential customers."

She explained that the service will eventually launch an app that will allow persons to top-up their accounts on their telephones or other devices.

Expectations of reduced revenues

Tomlin said the prepaid meter service is expected to reduce total revenues to JPS because of an expected reduction in consumption. However, the savings should give customers more disposable income to spend or save.

"It will help to grow the economy because if you use less (energy), then you have more money to spend, which helps the economy," Tomblin said.

JPS introduced a prepaid electricity service as an option as part of the fulfilment of its pledge to find alternative energy solutions for all Jamaicans.

"It is intended for those Jamaicans who have asked us for a payment option that can better assist them in predicting and budgeting for their electricity bills. Although new to Jamaica, prepaid electricity is a standard service product offered by many electric utilities the world over for decades," JPS said in response to Financial Gleaner queries.

To introduce the service, JPS opted to do a limited pilot of the programme across Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine, which the company intends to use to tweak the product before a wider roll-out across the island in 2016.

JPS added that the service is currently available to all residential and Rate 20 (general services/small commercial) customers and potential customers across Kingston, St Catherine and St Andrew.

"Prepaid electricity service was never designed, and is not intended, as a tool to fight electricity theft," the JPS said." It has, however, proved to be a very effective tool for budget-conscious customers who want more control to tailor their consumption to match how much they have to spend at any given time," the company added.

JPS made US$23.7 million in net profit over nine months ending September 2015 on revenues of US$583 million, which nearly doubled the US$12.5 million in profit earned a year earlier. The light and power provider said that it requires a new tariff to be approved by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) as prepaid is a new and different service from the normal post-paid payment solution.

"Designing and developing a new tariff for a new utility service can be a complex matter and JPS and the OUR have been in discussions for many months on the subject," said the JPS communications department. "This involved JPS making submissions to the OUR, showing different forecasts of what we believe the demand for the new service will be over time and the impact this will have on revenues, depending on the rate and structure of the tariff design," it added.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com