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Tread cautiously on light-bill reduction - consumer advocate

Published:Friday | January 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Yasmin Chong, a member of utilities-advocacy group, Consumer Advisory Committee on Utilities, has welcomed the Office of Utilities Regulation's (OUR) determination that the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) should lower rates on light bills.

However, Chong warned that the OUR should satisfy the country that its determination will not jeopardise the viability of the light and power company.

"For consumers, any reduction is always welcome, as long as we understand that we do want a quality grid and we do want a viable utility," Chong told The Gleaner yesterday.

The JPS is to construct a new 190 megawatt (MW) gas-turbine plant, replacing the 292MW HFO (heavy-fuel oil) power plants at Old Harbour in St Catherine and Hunts Bay in St Andrew. The construction of the new power plant, which should be completed by 2017, is essential to reducing the country's high energy cost.

Chong yesterday questioned whether the rate determination by the OUR would enable the utility company to discharge its responsibility to undertake that project.

She asked: "Can they actually, not so much on the operation side, but certainly on the investment side, given the plan that we are embarking on as a country with the new generation that is to come on stream, can they - and do they - have the capacity to make that investment?"


Chong added: "As consumers, we welcome the reduction, but we are cognisant of the fact that as consumers, we do need a quality grid and we do need a utility that is a viable company. What that means for us is that, if we can achieve those two things, we should experience even further reductions in our bills."

Kelly Tomblin, JPS's president and CEO, lamented the OUR's determination, saying: "We are disappointed that the OUR has not approved our strategy to build a stronger grid, improve service reliability, accommodate more renewables, and ultimately, introduce a sustainable reduction in rates to our customers."

Tomblin added: "We are still reviewing the determination, so it is too early to say what the full implications for our operations will be.