Thu | Aug 6, 2020

JPS: No blind eye to uptown electricity theft

Published:Wednesday | June 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Ramsay McDonald (left), senior vice president, customer services, Jamaica Public Service, and Rasheed Anderson, director, losses, operations and analytics, inspect one of the meters on display at the utility's New Kingston offices during a press conference to update the public on its fight against electricity theft.

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has rejected claims that it is turning a blind eye to electricity theft in affluent areas, arguing that efforts to stamp out the practice in these communities are usually discrete, sometimes taking the form of sting operations.

Yesterday, during a press briefing at its head office in St Andrew, the company reported that more than 18 per cent of the electricity that it produces is stolen. This has resulted in losses totalling approximately US$103 million (J$13.3 billion) in the last 18 months as the company continued to absorb the cost of the fuel used to produce much of the electricity that is stolen.

During his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament in May, Opposition Spokesman on Energy Phillip Paulwell stated that "it appears the JPS is focused almost exclusively on poorer communities" as it relates to electricity theft, an assertion described yesterday as "unfortunate" and "very inaccurate" by Rasheed Anderson, JPS director of losses operations and analytics.

Anderson argued that while the company maintained a presence in inner-city areas so that residents may feel a little apprehensive to run the risk of electricity theft, the methodology used uptown is not the same.

"Persons are accustomed to the JPS truck and the police passing through these [inner-city] communities, but you won't find that cohort of resources being deployed in affluent areas, so it is not as pronounced," he added.

"So, for instance, persons may see a regular meter reader come into the upscale communities and just say, 'Oh, JPS is there. They are just doing some checks or reading a meter'. [But] a lot of times, that is us having intel or some idea of theft taking place at that area. We also use different technology in order to detect it," he said.

Anderson noted that the JPS discovered more than 5,000 meter irregularities just this year alone, not counting the illegal wire connections within the inner-city areas.

" ... There's a growing trend where persons who have solar, uninterruptible power supply and generator systems, use those systems as a disguise for electricity theft ... . The generator system is actually not working; it's a dummy. So, the switching that takes place is between JPS metered and unmetered," he explained.

This year, the JPS has budgeted close to US$30 million to combat electricity theft, the most it has ever earmarked to tackle the problem.