Irregular power supply wreaks havoc with equipment
Several public-sector entities are now reporting damage to expensive equipment because of surges in the electricity supply from the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).
The power surges have left some entities nursing hefty repair bills, while they await compensation.
Among those hit hardest are hospitals, whose existence depend on sufficient electricity to keep life-saving equipment running.
The JPS has admitted that there have been complaints and claims for compensation from public entities such as hospitals but it has refused to provide details.
But checks by The Sunday Gleaner have revealed that in addition to hospitals and schools, the National Water Commission (NWC) has also been hard hit.
Charles Buchanan, the NWC's corporate relations manager said the commission is one of the largest clients of the JPS and has enjoyed a good relationship with the company for many years.
However, Buchanan admitted that the NWC has suffered equipment damage because of power surges over the years.
"I can't tell you how much we have received in terms of compensation from the JPS. But over the years, there has been damage to pumps as a result of damage to the motors. Of course, when this happens, there is disruption in water supply," disclosed Buchanan.
He said much of the information regarding damage has come anecdotally, as it is often difficult to have specific information unless someone was at a particular location when the equipment was damaged.
"However, in spite of that, we have been able to prove damage, and, hence, the compensation," he stated.
Engineer Cory Elliot explained that damage caused by irregular supply in electricity can occur in different ways.
"With companies like the NWC, their equipment is affected in two ways. The equipment can be damaged as a result of low voltage which causes the motors of pumps to burn, and too much electricity can also cause motors to burn," he explained.
Acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education Grace McLean said leading to and during the passage of Hurricane Sandy specific instructions were given for school administrators to turn off breakers.
"So all schools except those designated to be shelters disconnected supply from the breakers. So we did not have any problems during the passage of the hurricane," she said.
According to McLean, while she has heard anecdotally of equipment being damaged by power surges, she could not be specific about the schools involved.
The Ministry of Education absorbs electricity costs for public schools.
Damage to hospitals
Two weeks ago, chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority, Lyttleton 'Tanny' Shirley, admitted that hospitals have been hit hard as a result of fluctuations in the electricity supply to institutions.
"Sometimes when they get hit, the cost to repair them is just as high as replacing them. So the situation has to be weighed. And then some of them, you can't take any chances with," Shirley said.
The JPS, through its corporate relations manager, Winsome Callum, has admitted to complaints, investigations and compensation to some public-sector entities.
"Yes, the JPS has paid several thousands of dollars in claims to individuals, companies and other legal entities, including divisions of Government," said Callum in response to Sunday Gleaner queries.
However, she said the JPS would not disclose the sums or names associated with specific claims.
- Erica Virtue