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Jamaicans cut energy usage but still paying more

Published:Tuesday | May 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Jamaicans are using less electricity but still paying more, according to the newly released Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ).

The report, published annually by Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), also indicates that electricity sales fell two per cent but revenue rose 8.5 per cent to $110.1 billion in 2013.

The reduced sales were due mainly to a fall in demand, which occurred despite a 2.3 per cent increase in the Jamaica Public Service Company's customer base, the ESSJ indicates.

Total fuel consumption also decreased by 8.3 per cent to 4.14 million barrels in 2013, the fourth consecutive year of decline, the PIOJ reports.

Meanwhile, use of alternative energy is up, including coal which increased by 58.5 per cent over 2012.

The PIOJ, through a research officer, explained Friday that although fuel costs fell during the year, consumers paid more as "the market to which Jamaica is linked, the West Texas Intermediate, went up."

Demand, the Planning Institute said in its report, "reflected the dull economic environment, increased conservation practices and customers switching to alternative energy sources. Consequently, most consumer categories recorded reduced sales."

The cost of fuel used to generate electricity fell 2.5 per cent to $48.9 billion, reflecting the impact of market prices - the spot peak price of crude oil - which fell by 0.9 per cent, as well as increased generation by Independent Power Providers contracted to JPS, which uses cheaper fuel.

Reduction in consumption was also due to an overall 20 percent increase in alternative energy consumption, with coal climbing 58.5 per cent, and wind up six per cent. There was however a 17 per cent decline in hydropower supplies.

NO RECORDING FOR SOLAR

A PIOJ researcher said Friday that the planning agency has no recordings for solar, noting that the contribution from this source is minimal compared to wind and coal.

The decline in power consumption was largely due to energy savings among residential consumers, which recorded a 3.8 per cent fall in consumption to 986.2 gigawatt hours, followed by the general service category, which was down 2.3 per cent to 578.4 GWh.

Consumption among large commercial and industrial users fell by 1.6 per cent to 599.2 GWh, and by 0.4 per cent to 762.1 GWh in the small commercial/industrial category.

Increases were seen in the categories 'other' and 'street lighting'. Increased sales to interchange customers, particularly Windalco-Ewarton, continued to fuel the higher sales in the 'other' category, the ESSJ noted.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com