Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
Residents of Whitfield Town in St Andrew, one of the latest communities to be outfitted with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Residential Advanced Metering Infrastructure (RAMI) system, are complaining bitterly about what they have deemed an unfair system which is forcing them to pay "outrageous" electricity bills.
"The system is good, but them charging too much," said 67-year-old Alvin McIntosh.
"Everybody bawling 'bout the new system because the bill is too high and most people not working and don't have the money to pay it," McIntosh said.
He acknowledged that before the RAMI system took effect late last year in his community, he would pool together with a group of persons and pay on average $4,000 per month. But now, each person is being billed approximately $5,000 and much higher.
"A whole heap a people a lick out 'gainst it, 'cause it a kill we. This is wickedness. This new system is not working fair for us. It want adjust 'cause something wrong," stated Donald McBean, 45, who has lived there for more than 20 years.
"All when you try conserve and turn off everything and stop use some things, the bill still come even higher than before. Me want the light, but me can't afford them $9,000 bill yah me a get."
Plagued with widespread electricity theft in several communities across the island over the years, which has resulted in costly loss of revenue, the electricity company has been undertaking an extensive islandwide campaign to clean up the illegal connections.
The JPS has removed thousands of illegal connections in communities across St James, Kingston and St Andrew, and several persons have been arrested.
To deal with the issue of reducing theft while allowing residents to access electricity, RAMI was introduced in several communities, whereby JPS removed the meters from within reach of residents and placed them in locked energy guard boxes, located atop light posts.
According to Winsome Callum, head of corporate communications for JPS, there are now 13 communities on the tamper-resistant system, including communities in the Corporate Area, St Catherine and Montego Bay, and they will continue to assess the situation to decide on future implementation.
JPS is also looking at introducing a prepaid metering system, which will be another option for residents.
in full effect
Last year the light and power company began the RAMI changeover in Whitfield Town and it is now in full effect.
But several residents told The Gleaner that the system was putting them under tremendous pressure, especially since most of them are unemployed.
"Is not only that we not working, but the bill too high, man. This is wickedness," said Maureen Buchanan.
"We also have a problem with what them say we using because we can't even see if we using that amount," said Jacqueline Brown.
"We getting bill say we use all this light and owe all this money, but how we know that? Them move the meter them and we not even know if any in dem box deh," she noted, pointing to the metal boxes atop the poles.
"How we know them not robbing we? Well, with them bill yah, we know we a get rob," Brown added.
However, Callum said although the meters have been taken out of easy reach, customers were able to stay informed of their consumption.
"Customers on the RAMI system are given a customer display unit (CDU), which carries a digital display of the energy being consumed by that account holder. They are, therefore, able to monitor their usage, as well as note the impact of any conservation measures," Callum stated.