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JPS tests remote-controlled power usage in affluent homes

Published:Wednesday | April 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Steven Jackson, Business Reporter

Customers in the affluent Jacks Hill and Barbican neighbourhoods of St Andrew can now remotely shut down home lights and appliances, and monitor their energy usage online under a test project rolled out by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS). The US$500,000 (J$44m) Smart Grid Interface (SGI) pilot launched last month allows customers to curb their power usage from anywhere in the world.

JPS said it chose the affluent neighbourhood based on its relatively high energy usage.

"This area of Barbican/Jacks Hill presents a good mix of larger homes, apartments, townhouses and smaller older homes. Additionally, the average customer usage per month is over 650 kWh, which is much higher than the residential customer average of 170 kWh per month. This higher usage level presents a real opportunity for energy management," said JPS in response to Wednesday Business queries.

"Also, with this mix of residential development and higher usage, JPS will have the opportunity to see how the SGI technology can benefit the various structure types and customers."

Communication technology was installed on the existing distribution network, including streetlights, power lines and substations, and the switch to smart meters that facilitate two-way communication in the pilot zone at no cost to the customers selected for the project.

"Customers who are on what is also referred to as the 'smart grid' will have the option of choosing to access add-on features that facilitate remote control over home appliances and lighting, allowing for better monitoring of their own energy usage. With these add-on features, customers can also track their energy usage online from anywhere in the world - even from their smartphone devices," said JPS.

Customers on the Smart Grid Interface will pay the same rate as other residential customers.

"Installing smart grid infrastructure will allow for greater efficiency as well as more information to guide decisions," it stated. "The project is being implemented at a cost of US$500,000."

Phase one of the pilot covers all roads off Barbican Road going north up Jacks Hill including, but not limited to Millsborough, Widcombe, Dillsbury, Linnaman, McCauley, Plymouth, Wiggan Loop, Edgecombe, Bermuda, Ripoll, Welwyn, Gainsborough, Degenhardt, Zoysia, Pangola, Bahama and Doorly.

Phase two includes the top of Jacks Hill and Carmel Place.

The smart grid utilises Nexgrid technology, through local authorised dealer Powerful Data Limited (PDL). PDL will provide broadband smart grid infrastructure for JPS to facilitate two-way communication with the smart meters.

Nexgrid has deployed advanced communication elements with over 25 utilities, impacting over 200,000 homes worldwide.

JPS last year collected US$1.15 billion (J$100b) annually from homes and businesses powered by the national grid.

Jamaicans pay about 40 US cents per kilowatt hour for electricity supplied by JPS and have been putting increasing pressure on the utility, which has a monopoly on power distribution, to do more to lower the cost of energy.