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Thieves drive up light bills by 18% - JPS losses from abstraction top J$9 billion

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris - Staff Reporter

Jamaicans would have their electricity bills slashed by as much as 18 per cent if the company were to eliminate power theft, president and chief executive officer of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), Emanuel DaRosa, has revealed.

The light and power company suffers about J$9 billion in losses to electricity thieves annually and spent US$27 million, or J$3.5 billion, last year in fighting abstraction, including the rollout of 100,000 smart meters.

DaRosa has listed this as one of the priorities under its capital projects for this year.

“In terms of electricity theft, just the cost alone to fuel electricity that is stolen from our system is US$70 million, and if all customers were to pay for electricity consumed it would be about US$120 million incremental revenue, which would decrease the cost of electricity to everyone in the system by somewhere between 15 to 18 per cent, so it is substantial,” he revealed during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Thursday at the newspaper’s North Street head office.

DaRosa, who joined the JPS team 18 months ago, said that he was taken aback by the heights of electricity theft in Jamaica when he relocated to the island from Canada.

“It was a little bit shocking because it is much higher levels than it is in Canada. We estimate that electricity theft represents about two to three per cent of energy in total, and here we are seeing it at 18 per cent,” he said.

DaRosa said he does not expect to eradicate electricity theft in Jamaica but acknowledged that the incidence of two to three per cent, common in First-World nations, would be tolerable.

“It is a different country, it is a different place, and so there are different challenges, and this is just a challenge that exists here that we are going to work towards correcting and addressing as best as we can,” he said.

According to data provided by JPS, five parishes – Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon and St James – contribute to 72 per cent electricity theft.

“JPS does not have the capacity to address this issue. This is a bigger issue, this is a social issue,” DaRosa said.