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Editors' Forum | Middle income residents steal spotlight

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju - Gleaner Writer
Emanuel DaRosa, president and CEO of JPS, explains his company’s strategic vision at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum. Looking on is Winsome Callum, director of communications and customer experience.

The smart meter initiative that records electricity consumption and transmits data to facilitate monitoring and billing is paying additional dividends for the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).

“We have a lot more information than we have ever had,” President and CEO Emanuel DaRosa disclosed during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Thursday. “There was a perception that a lot of stealing was going on in richer areas, and I am not saying that it doesn’t happen, but not to the extent that people believe.”

This definitive statement is based on a comparative analysis of readings from different socio-economic communities, which turned up a surprising revelation.

DaRosa explained: “We only found a couple instances where there were irregularities. We expected to see more based on anecdotal evidence of rich people being able to afford to bypass the system, (but) we haven’t necessarily seen it.”

The wide-scale illegal abstraction of electricity in lower-income communities was an expected outcome, but the level of circumvention of the legal system by residents of middle-income neighbourhoods, and their inclination to reoffend, stunned JPS executives.

“We knew that once we pull down the ‘throw-ups’ (illegal connections), they would go back up right away, but we expected that in some of the middle-class neighbourhoods, that if we would find a bypass, and we [would stop] the person. What we are seeing now, with our new advanced information [system], is that they are going right back to it a few days later, much like what we saw in the red zones.

“That’s not something we expected, the persistence of abstraction of electricity by the middle class, but we are seeing a lot of it,” LaRosa lamented.

As more smart meters are installed, the feedback will enable the energy company to detect with greater accuracy the level of electricity theft, the JPS CEO warned.

“Most of our information is anecdotal, but we know, based on what we have uncovered with smart meters, that we will know at a very granular level whenever there is illegal extraction of electricity.”

By year end, the JPS would have installed a total of 300,000 smart meters across Jamaica. At a projected rate of about 100,000 smart meters annually, the electricity provider will have 650,000 smart meters installed with all its customers by 2023.