Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Wiping out theft, other losses would cut light bills by 9% – Vaz

Published:Thursday | May 11, 2023 | 1:48 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Daryl Vaz, minister of science, energy and technology.
Daryl Vaz, minister of science, energy and technology.

The severe problem of electricity theft in Jamaica, which has caused legal paying customers of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) to dig deeper into their pockets to defray the cost of those accessing power free of cost, could be reduced significantly with the planned implementation of the findings of two major studies.

Daryl Vaz, minister of science, energy and technology, said yesterday that legal paying customers of the JPS could see a nearly nine per cent decline in their electricity bills if loss-reduction plans are successfully introduced.

In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament, Vaz said electricity theft was a growing threat to the power grid, and to a greater extent, public safety.

He said the ministry has concluded, with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development, an Energy Loss Independent Report that outlines next steps that include the development of a National Electricity Loss Reduction Plan for Jamaica, which includes energy-efficiency initiatives, communications, empowerment, and enforcement.

Vaz reported that in 2022, Jamaica’s level of Non-Technical Losses (NTL) accounted for 20 per cent of the electricity generated.

“Every legal customer of the JPS is paying for this 20 per cent. This equates to tens of millions of United States dollars. This is among the highest in the region. Seventy per cent of the losses result from electricity theft,” Vaz told his parliamentary colleagues.

He said the NTL Working Group met quarterly to define the strategic policies aimed at eliminating losses through improved loss management, metering infrastructure, and supplementary financing.

“If successful, the policy initiatives categorised under the four thematic areas could reduce electricity rates by 8.7 per cent or more,” he added.

“Can you imagine getting a bill with 8-10 per cent less just based on this alone? It is news, especially for those who are on the minimum wage.”

In addition, Vaz said another study funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, which was completed in September 2022, will also support the reduction in non-technical losses.

The minister appealed to Jamaicans who are stealing electricity to “cease and desist”. He said the risk to life and property is not worth it.

Vaz signalled that the cost to comprehensively address the problem of electricity theft in Jamaica was significant.

He urged members of the political directorate to join in the thrust to dissuade persons from stealing electricity.

He said that the Government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the studies with the availability of fiscal space in the budget.