Power now in the hands of the people - Quarry Hill residents welcome JPS prepaid system
Tired of her hefty Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) bills, payment deadlines and disconnections, Opal Waisome stormed into one of the company's offices last month to voice her frustrations.
"I don't like the bill business. It come in like it pressure you every time you get the bill and the deadline," said Waisome.
"The bill came to $13,000 and me pay $12,000 and mi get cut off for the $1,000," said Waisome.
She said she didn't want to go the route of stealing electricity, but she could not afford to be without power either. So when a customer service representative of the utility company sought to calm her by informing her of the option to get prepaid electricity, her interest was piqued.
About two days later, her prepaid meter was installed and she has been living JPS bill-free ever since.
The prepaid electricity system was introduced in the island in 2014, and since then hundreds of customers have signed up. This metering system allows customers to match their consumption needs to their pocket, since with the prepaid meter, they can purchase power from the utility company based on their budget.
Waisome, who lives in Quarry Hill, off the Dunbeholden Road in St Catherine, said she has seen a reduction in what she spends each month for electricity. She especially loves the fact that she does not get a monthly bill.
"I put on $2,500 from last month and is yesterday I just put on back a $1,000 and I do everything with it. I run a pump; I wash three times per week. I do just about everything with it. I handle it like regular (post-paid)," said Waisome, who has since encouraged some of her neighbours in the relatively small community to sign up for the prepaid system as well.
So far, 14 homeowners from Quarry Hill have signed up and there are four additional households being assessed. Another 150 potential customers are awaiting a government electrical inspection certificate, which is one of the requirements for the prepaid metering system.
Sandra Solomon, another resident, was encouraged by Waisome to explore the prepaid meter system, which now allows her to purchase electricity at a cheaper rate for her and the other eight members of her household.
"Bwoy, di light bill did ah buss my head yaah, man," declared Solomon.
"One of the times, I was thinking that they soon come and cut it off," Solomon told The Sunday Gleaner in explaining why she opted for prepaid.
Solomon admitted that for years, she had illegally extracted electricity from the JPS grid; however, this was very tiring, dangerous, and expensive.
"When we hear that JPS ah come, if no man not here to take it (wire) down, our goose cook because they go with the wire, so we have to throw up and buy again. So that's one of the things that get to me, because the wire them are not cheap," she said.
"We live here, but is not everybody have the ability to run up and down," she said.
The self-employed mother of three said she reached her breaking point the last time the JPS had come and disconnected and seized the 500 feet of wire she had purchased to steal electricity from its grid earlier this year.
She then began the process of getting the prepaid system and now pays on average $1,500 for electricity. She joked that she now feels like she is paying for the amount of electricity she actually uses rather than for what has been consumed by other Jamaicans who are stealing from the JPS.
"I used to pay up to $5,000 and sometimes I wonder what I use," she said.
Solomon said the prepaid option forces her to conserve, and her family has been very cooperative.
"Now and then I play two music. The most I would burn is my TV. When it comes to the light now, I only leave the two outside light on at night time, and I see where it is more conservative and more economical for people like me pocket," she said.
Waisome and Solomon now purchase their prepaid electricity voucher at a JPS outlet in Spanish Town, but this can also be purchased at a Bill Express or online.
Once the 20-digit voucher number is entered into the prepaid meter, both women are able to get instant access to the number of kilowatt hours purchased, and the meter also allows them to monitor their usage.
Members of the JPS team who work in the Quarry Hill area in St Catherine told our news team that they are very encouraged by the community's response to the prepaid system.