Energy Challenges

Of course, right now we’re dealing with a ridiculous request from the light and power monopoly for electricity rate increases, even after they’ve posted profits for the year. What incentive do they have to improve delivery and efficiencies to customers? There are 3 main problems surrounding the matter of electricity in Jamaica: power generation efficiency, distribution efficiency, and electricity theft. Of course, there are other external factors as well, such as exchange rate and international fuel prices. But those 3 factors I listed, I believe, are the easiest to rectify and control, if for no other reason, the fact that these are elements that the Jamaica Public Service can control. Pump your surpluses into improving generation and distribution efficiencies, and in enforcing anti-theft programmes instead of hiking prices on compliant consumers. Our industries suffer from irregular power supplies, and the electricity costs alone also account for the high costs of production in Jamaica.

Alternative power sources are needed, but will have to make a serious impact quickly. LNG is the latest to come along, and it has real potential. The arguments being made by the Jamaica Manufacturers Association, that LNG is also subject to world price fluctuations, misses the point – LNG can be used to produce electricity more efficiently that oil, and is cleaner than coal. So on that basis, it’s already a winner. Other forms of energy already in use – wind power and hydropower – need to be able to supply a larger market share in order to make a real difference. And forget the nuclear energy option I’m hearing bounced around; that’s DoA on so many grounds – financial, environmental, etc.

The distribution problems JPS faces is obvious enough, made worse by scrap metal thieves and careless drivers tearing off power lines and poles with reckless abandon. JPS needs to consider burying their cables underground in a more systematic manner, taking care of the car crash and scrap metal problem, while also reducing the exposure of power lines to hurricane winds and similar weather-borne threats, as well as (hopefully) making it more difficult for thieves to connect to the system illegally by removing a temptation that’s literally dangling in front of them.

Which is my final point. Electricity theft is so pervasive and rampant, yet if compliant customers miss any payment by 1 or 2 days, they’re liable to have their service cut off, regardless of their payment history. Running ads in the paper and on billboards is nice and all, but let’s see their effectiveness.

Granted, the JPS isn’t the only utility to arrogantly seek payment for services under-delivered; yes, I’m talking about the National Water Commission. But the gall to seek this when posting profits (the NWC is nowhere near that cushy financially) is ridiculous. This is why healthy competition is useful in breaking up utility monopolies. Look at LIME now, with Flow, Digicel and Claro running rampant in the local telecommunications market. Competition fosters innovation, better customer serviceĀ and low price points, all which benefits the consumer. It would also lead to happier customers less likely to complain loudly, but also less likely to use their ingenius minds to buck the system…

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2 Responses to “Energy Challenges”

  1. Hi just to add something here, I would like to suggest we all take a little more care in the planet since man is destroying it. Please help if not for yourself, think about our children for God Sake. I am doing my part please do yours.

  2. Ras Don Rico says:

    It’s interesting how no one seems to be saying much about the geothermal vents located in the same places as the recently pubicized (though long-known) undersea oil “discovery” off the Jamaican coastline.

    There is more about these alternative energy sources at:

    I hope that you are not like the scientists you so aptly described in your other blog post: “Style, No Substance…” and that you will act (write/blog) about this reality, based on the recognition of that science has always been used politically as well as socio-economically.

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2 comments so far
parris Posted by: parris July 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm