Fri | Mar 22, 2019

Majesty Gardens sees the light - Community moves from three to more than 400 registered JPS customers

Published:Saturday | March 2, 2019 | 12:21 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer

Having moved from three legal customers in 2013 to 715 at present, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is describing the massive jump in electricity regularisation in the south St Andrew community of Majesty Gardens as its greatest success story.

“Going from almost 100 per cent electricity theft to over 80 per cent being legitimate, regularised customers is our biggest success thus far, and it also proves that through partnership, you can make a big difference,” JPS President and CEO Emanuel DaRosa said during a tour of the community yesterday.

The exponential increase in legal electricity usage is due in large part to the introduction of the ready board – an energy solution introduced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The innovation is a board panel that accommodates sockets and bulbs and allows for the safe use of electricity in homes that cannot facilitate traditional house wiring.

With an estimated 850 power consumers, the area once decorated by throw-ups is now almost completely regularised, and DaRosa is looking to replicate this model across other inner-city communities.

“Each community will have its own unique challenges, but I believe when you can achieve success in a community that is as challenging as Majesty Gardens, then certainly, we can do similar [undertakings] in other parts of the country,” he added.

MULTIAGENCY PARTNERSHIP

The partnership saw USAID injecting US$100,000 (J$13 million) for the material for the ready boards; JPS investing $54.8 million for pole line infrastructure, ready board assembly and installation; the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) managing the implementation of the project; and the University of Technology providing engineering students who manufactured the ready boards at the institution’s Papine campus.

JSIF Executive Director Omar Sweeney, who was also in the touring party, underscored the significance of remedying the socio-economic problem of electricity theft in the area, a point driven home by long-time resident Chisena Campbell.

Campbell, the community facilitator for JPS and JSIF, noted that many residents were initially reluctant to regularise their power supply due to not wanting to foot the bill, but eventually, they became frustrated with their electrical appliances being frequently damaged due to illegal connections.

“I remember someone saying to me that they are going to thief light til thy kingdom come, and now that same person, among others, is saying that they are glad that they had signed up. Especially the ready board – the pay as you go – because it keep the discipline,” shared Campbell, noting that 412 consumers are benefiting from the innovation.

“A lot of persons had brand-new television sets and refrigerators for years but didn’t want to use them out of fear of damage because they’ve lost a lot of them in the past. So as soon as they got the good light, them start to plug in their appliances.

“From mi a little baby a come up, wire used to full the posts. Thieving used to rampant, but now, you hardly see any of that, and as a community, we are proud of the social change,” she added.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com