PRICEY POWER has been plaguing the productive sector. The cost of electricity is sky high and everyone's feeling the pinch. Consistently high electricity bills have triggered bitter complaints and howls of protest among consumers, both commercial and residential. Indeed, there seems to be no greater unifying factor than the burdensome cost of electricity felt by Jamaicans across all socio-economic groups. The movement against expensive electricity has been gaining momentum, prompting efforts by the Government to renegotiate aspects of the licence held by the Jamaica Public Service Company and a review of the power company's new digital meters.
While the renegotiation effort has had some success, arguable though it may be, the probe by the Office of Utilities Regulation into the new meters showed no defects.
In fact, the main investigator claims the meters are actually more accurate than the previous ones, effectively killing any and all hopes there would be changes.
It means customers will just have to find new ways to cut back on usage, while exploring other sources for longer-term, sustainable solutions to the energy problem. But although alternative sources mean lower energy costs down the road, getting started is almost always expensive.
Not to worry, said Curtis Martin, deputy group president of the Capital and Credit Financial Group, who leads the team that has come up with an affordable way to help renewable energy seekers go green without going broke.
"It's a renewable-energy loan that starts at $100,000 and goes up to $5 million. You can actually borrow what you need to completely retrofit your house, to put in solar panels or other alternative-energy facilities to reduce your use of electricity from the (JPS) grid."
Martin is particularly proud that although there are other offerings in the market, the Capital and Credit option is very competitive. In addition to an interest rate of 9.5 per cent and loan terms of up to 10 years, Martin noted that there are fewer pre-conditions for customers.
"You can use any collateral once the collateral is approved by Capital and Credit, so you can use your house, a car or any other approved collateral," he explained, adding that customers also have the option of borrowing multiple times.
Before you seek the green light, Martin, who's also the chief executive officer of the Capital and Credit Merchant Bank (CCMB), suggested that you begin with some expert advice from any one of a number of professionals who have teamed up with the bank. "They will likely recommend that you do an energy audit and then coming from the energy audit they'd decide how to configure your house to maximise the benefit from using an alternative source of energy."
Now if you're not yet ready for a complete retro-fit, the CCMB boss recommends that customers start with a loan for a solar water heater.
"You can borrow from $80,000 to a maximum $250,000 for up to three years, and again the interest rate is 9.5 per cent."
Martin asserted that the financial entity sees this push to encourage the use of greener energy sources as a win-win for their clients as well as the nation, which is currently facing a likely oil bill of $2 billion for 2011. The banking executive argued that as good corporate citizens, it's CCMB's responsibility to promote the use of alternative energy to help reduce the amount the country spends on oil while at the same time, helping to preserve the environment.
"If we could get thousands of customers utilising the sunshine which is natural and abundant in Jamaica to generate electricity, and to use that as the mechanism to get hot water, for example, then we'd see a significant reduction in electricity bills and also a reduction in our import bill," Martin contended. It's all part of managing expenses - personal and national - the first step on the road to financial fitness.
Capital and Credit and The Gleaner are providing pointers to get you there, all year long. Get the information you need online, in print and on air through the series Getting & Staying Financially Fit. From now until December, the team at Capital & Credit will be at your service, providing the information you need to whip your finances into shape.
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