Jamaica was one of the fore runners in the use of electricity around the world, today JPS have the sole responsibility for the supply, but for how long?…
Brief History of Electricity in Jamaica
With all the hype you hear about the electricity service today in Jamaica you could be forgiven for not knowing that Jamaica was one of the first countries in the world to have an electricity supply in 1892, a mere 13 years after American scientist Thomas Edison invented the electric lamp. The same year the Jamaica Electric Light Company provided the first electricity service on the island from a plant at Gold Street, Kingston transforming the lives and work practises of many Jamaicans.
The West India Electric Company had a bigger influence when they established an office in Kingston at 151 Orange Street and extended the electricity service to other areas by way of a powerful 3 machine hydroelectric plant on the Rio Cobre River at Bog Walk in 1897. The Plant had the capacity to deliver over 300 kilowatts of energy enabling the company to introduce electric tramcars to the public (buses later took over) which replaced the horse draw cabs that Jamaicans formerly used to get about. A tragic accident on 24th June 1904 left many local families distraught as 33 men drowned whilst cleaning out the silt that had collected in the 8ft wide pipe supplying water to the plant from the Rio Cobre River.
The West India Electric Company became more effective in serving the public after the integration of the Gold Street station with the Bog Walk Supply system in 1907. This occurred after a severe earthquake damaged areas of Kingston and they were able to lease the property and business of Jamaica Light & Power Company Ltd, (formerly the Jamaica Electric Light Company) consolidating the two plants power together.
JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company Limited) is Formed
Although many towns had their own electricity companies supplying the local area in the early years several buy-outs, consolidations and amalgamations produced the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited as we know it today. JPS was registered as a limited business in 1923 and was granted an all-island franchise in 1966. Now serving over 585,000 customers JPS remains the sole public supplier of electricity in Jamaica.
Although JPS was originally owned by foreign shareholders, between 1970 and 2001 the Government of Jamaica acquired controlling interest. This control ceased in 2001 when the Mirant Corporation, a US-based energy service provider, bought 80% of the company with the government left with just 19%, the last 1% was controlled by minority shareholders.
This partnership survived until 2007 when Mirant sold its majority shares to Marubeni Caribbean Power Holdings (MCPH) Inc, a subsidiary of Marubeni Corporation of Japan.
In early 2009 Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) of the United Arab Emirates, joined Marubeni as co-owner of JPS. Majority shares were therefore jointly held by Marubeni TAQA Caribbean.
This partnership was short-lived as in the first quarter of 2011, TAQA withdrew from the partnership with Marubeni in the Caribbean to concentrate on other investments. By the second quarter of 2011, Korea East West Power (EWP) entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Marubeni Corporation for joint ownership of majority shares (80%) in the company. Today, Marubeni Caribbean and Korea East-West Power Company Ltd are the majority shareholders in the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd.
JPS produces electricity by various methods across the island including, steam (oil-fired), gas turbines, combined cycle, diesel, hydropower and wind plants. They are encouraging the development of ‘green’ initiatives to cut the dependency on oil for producing power, including new wind turbine plants and hydro-power facilities (water).
How to Open a New Account with JPS
If you want to open a new account with JPS and you own the residence then you must either visit one of the island wide offices, or telephone them on (876) 225-5577 to make the first application. If a meter is already on your premises, the power supply will be connected within 5 working days of opening the contract. Interest is received annually on your deposits, which is applied to your electricity bill.
If you are moving or relocating then you must make sure that you apply for service 5 days prior to expected date of use to ensure power is available.
Newly Built Property
Should you have a newly built residence it will need certification by the Government Electrical Inspector prior to being able to open an account, please remember to allow up to 15 business days for the certificate to be submitted to JPS.
Conditional Contract for Service
If you do not own the premises for which you need electricity service you can get a Conditional Contract for Service when you give JPS written permission from your landlord, or a letter of recommendation from a Justice of the Peace.
In order to open a new account for both types of service you will need to provide JPS with:
- Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN)
- Photo ID
- Deposit of $1500 (included on first electricity bill for phone applicants only)
Reconnection of Service Due to Non Payment of Bills
If for any reason your service has been disconnected due to non-payment of bills you will be expected to settle your bill, pay an extra $1,500 + GCT reconnection fee and may also be asked to upgrade your deposit if it is less than the equivalent of 60 days previous usage. It is very important to make provisions to pay your bills if you are out of the country for any length of time as it can be expensive and inconvenient when things go wrong. The increase in deposit can be as follows:
- 1st Incident – Deposit is upgraded by $1,500
- Subsequent Incidents – Upgrade will represent the equivalent of 2 months’ usage
Terminating Your Electricity Contract
If you wish to end your electricity contract with JPS you should contact them so they will come and take a meter reading and prepare a final bill; any deposit paid and interest due are applied to the final amount. Should there be a balance owing you will be required to settle the bill, however if JPS owe you money you will be expected to apply in writing at your nearest Customer Service Office to get a refund.
In order to terminate your contract you will need to supply JPS with:
- JPS account number
- the ID you provided when you opened the account.
- Remember, the electricity meter is the property of JPS, and must not be tampered with or removed.
Understanding the Bill
The bill that you will receive has many charges and GCT added which can considerably increase the actual amount due, so may want to prepare for a shock when it comes in! There is a Glossary on the back of the bill which explains what the various charges are for, although it doesn’t make the bill any easier to swallow…
My Bill Arrives
My last bill for a one bedroom apartment, which normally houses two people was for $6,952.37 for the month, but I ended up paying $7,008.00 when the GCT and service charge from Bill Express was added. My apartment has an electric oven (which I do not recommend as it eats electric) and a fridge / freezer, I use my laptop on a daily basis (work, Internet, listening to music and movies) but plug it out, including the modem when I am finished with it, I try not to use the fan and AC unless it is really necessary, I do not have a washing machine or drier, do not have masses of ironing (pressing of clothes) every week either and try to remember to turn off unnecessary lights around the house.
There are various ways of paying your JPS bill:
- Visit JPS customer service offices across the island and pay in person
- Telephoning JPS Customer Care Center on (876) 225-5577 and pay using Visa or MasterCard
- Pay at the following authorized merchants:
- Bill Express * No transaction fee required for payment of JPS bills ONLY in the JPS offices
- Prime Trust Cambio – Half Way Tree
- Paymaster * Transaction fee require.
- First Caribbean Bank
- Jamaica National Building Society
To be honest JPS have a pretty bad reputation in Jamaica with many people feeling displeased with the service, but as there aren’t any competitors Jamaicans are tied to the company whether their experience is good or bad. There are frequent power cuts whereby the lights generally flash on and off twice before it completely shuts down, for how long? No-body knows. You just wait and hope it isn’t too long and start lighting candles. The longest power cut I have experienced is 6 days after Hurricane Sandy and it wasn’t fun. At all.
The company has to tackle communities and businesses where there are losses as residents steal electricity by hooking wires up to the main supply cables that stretch across the country to ‘bridge’ the current by-passing the meter. Many people believe the high cost of bills is due to paying customers covering the cost on non-paying customers further increasing the resentment.
Some people have generators that ‘kick in’ when the mains power is interrupted for a certain length of time, restoring power and enabling them to get through the power cut without too many problems…. unless the generator is out of fuel of course! Another method of reducing electricity consumption that is gaining popularity, especially from returning residents that build in Jamaica, is the installation of solar panels.
A Schedule of Rates for 2012 can be found here, which explains costings for the coming year: http://www.myjpsco.com/_pdfs/2012_Rate_Schedules.pdf
The latest Schedule of Rates as of December 2014 can be found here: http://www.myjpsco.com/wp-content/uploads/2013_rate_schedule.pdf
Further information about JPS can be found at their website: http://www.myjpsco.com/