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JPS ramps up conservation with SmartEnergy plan

Published:Wednesday | June 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) has ramped up its energy-conservation campaign by launching a new plan to help customers take control of their usage, even as it is granted new powers to go after individuals and businesses engaged in illegally abstracting electricity to the tune of about US$50 million (J$4.43 billion) annually.

President and chief executive officer, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, launched the SmartEnergy programme as an interim conservation measure as the company prepares to invest US$600 million in a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Old Harbour, St Catherine, cognisant that, if goes as planned, it will result in customers paying some 30 per cent less for electricity.

Tomblin initiated the programme against the background of what the JPS said, in a release, was a question posed by customers as to what they should do to reduce their light bills while the plant, scheduled to be completed in late 2014, is constructed.

The JPS CEO said the focus should be on conservation and efficiency.

To that end, the release said, the JPS "is leading by example", by rolling out the programme at its Ruthven Road, St Andrew, offices where the level of conservation will be measured over time to assess the gains.

"SmartEnergy includes several initiatives aimed at helping customers take control of their usage by making the right choices, from the point of purchasing to how equipment and appliances are used," said the statement.

Speaking at the launch event recently, Tomblin told participants JPS has a responsibility to guide customers in their energy usage, and should practise the very things it is asking customers to do.

She pointed out that in 2011, an independent evaluation was conducted by the Washington-based Castalia Strategic Advisors on options to bring down energy costs in Jamaica.

The consultants listed energy efficiency among their recommendations, indicating that customers could reduce their bills by up to 16 per cent by increasing the use of more energy-efficient technologies, Tomblin added.

"This is supported by similar research in Barbados and other countries," the president and CEO said, adding that "JPS has a responsibility to help our customers realise the gains of using energy efficiently".

The SmartEnergy plan will include an office energy-efficiency programme, an energy audit-certification seminar, stakeholder-education meetings, and an energy management-training programme for business customers.

According to the JPS, the Ruthven Road office will be the pilot for the company's office energy-efficiency programme, which involves conducting an initial review of usage at that location, and working with the staff to adjust its pattern over time, in order to cut down on consumption.

Separately, the JPS's head of corporate communications, Winsome Callum, responding to queries from Wednesday Business, indicated that a new back-billing policy approved by the Office of Utilities Regulation regarding, among other things, the illegal abstraction of electricity, will likely affect all categories of customers - residential, small commercial, large commercial and industrial.

The policy will affect customers across the island and allows back-billing for up to six years in some specified cases of irregularities.

She said it would be difficult to say approximately how many customers could be immediately impacted by the new policy, which took effect on June 1, because "this depends on the number of customers audited, and the number found with irregularities".

Asked to quantify outstanding sums to the JPS as a result of illegally abstracted electricity, irregularities or under-billing, which the company has been trying to recover through back-billing, Callum said: "JPS loses approximately US$50 million per year as a result of illegally abstracted electricity."

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com