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Consumers unsure about prepaid electricity

Published:Tuesday | February 26, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Kenisha Swaby, resident of Majesty Gardens, St Andrew, said she would welcome the prepaid electricity metering system being proposed by the Jamaica Public Service. - photos by Rudolph Brown/Photographer
A resident of Majesty Gardens, St Andrew, connecting an illegal electricity wire to a Jamaica Public Service light pole.

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

Several Kingston and St Andrew residents are sceptical about the prepaid metering system the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) plans to introduce to Jamaica by mid-year. Some are adamant that it will not work and are calling for a flat-rate system, while others want to hear more details before making a decision. For others, it can't come soon enough.

Earlier this month, Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, announced that the electricity company was finalising details on a number of agreed initiatives as part of renewed efforts to improve service and reduce the impact of high electricity costs.

Among the proposed initiatives are: an industrial tariff for large businesses; an incentive for customers who pay their bills on time; a late-payment fee to be applied in lieu of automatic disconnection; and a prepaid metering system - all of which will be rolled out on a phased basis.

Prepaid electricity meters work somewhat like prepaid phones - customers have to top-up with credit to get service. The postpaid meter is replaced with a prepaid one, which usually has a slot to put a top-up card to increase the energy supply. Depending on the type of meter, top-ups can be done in a number of ways and customers can go to any designated location to purchase credit. Customers with prepaid meters will no longer get a bill at the end of the month.

Several countries, including the United Kingdom, utilise this system.

viable option

Plagued with electricity theft in several communities across the island over the years, the electricity company is hoping that residents will see this as a viable option. Hoping to drastically reduce the loss in revenue due to the widespread theft, JPS embarked on an extensive islandwide campaign to clean up the illegal connections. They have removed several connections in communities across St James and Kingston and St Andrew, and several persons have been arrested.

In sections of Denham Town, Kingston, JPS has also removed the meters from within reach of residents and placed them in locked metal boxes atop light poles.