Electricity billing set to rise: Consumers disappointed as government electricity subsidy ends

AS the Government of Jamaica’s electricity subsidy programme comes to an end, some consumers are expressing disappointment as their light bills are “higher than ever”.

Electricity costs surged following the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022, based on higher oil prices.

However, starting May 1, 2022, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) moved to reduce electricity bills by 20 per cent, providing a subsidy for consumers who use 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity or less for the months of April, May, June and July.

Prepaid residential customers who paid any amount during April received $3,000.00 credit on their account.

However, now at the end of the programme, consumers told the Jamaica Observer that each month they have paid more and more for electricity, this despite also receiving an alert from the Jamaica Public Service Company which said the subsidy had been applied.

One man told the Business Observer, “Dem tief. If you do a survey you will see that they are robbing customers.”

He explained that light charges which averaged $7,000 at the start of 2020 had risen close to $9,000 by July, even though the subsidy was applied.

“My bill is even more,” one woman said, echoing the sentiment of several others who claimed to be disappointed.

Still another expressed disappointment that there had been “no savings” realised from the government initiative.

Subsidy made it better

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) is noting, meanwhile, that consumers should realise that their bills would have been 20 per cent higher were it not for the government subsidy.

It can be deduced that consumers will also see a significant rise in billing charges now that the subsidy has terminated.

Winsome Callum, communications manager for JPSCo, said consumers would note that they would have been paying even more, were it not for the government subsidy.

“Your bill would have been higher were it not for the GoJ (Government of Jamaica) subsidy. Add the subsidy to the actual bill and you will get an idea of what you would have had to pay without the subsidy,” she said.

She added, “People are always concerned about how much they pay for electricity. I know you’ve been monitoring world news, so you know this is not just a Jamaica thing… especially where fuel cost is concerned. Check out how other countries are dealing with it — in the Caribbean and elsewhere.”

Globally and in the region there are several countries where there have been violent protests due to high fuel prices.

Callum noted that consumers should carefully check usage, the billing exchange rate and fuel charge as they are the determinants of the billing amount.

“Once you have done that, you can do an objective assessment of what’s happening with your bills. There is no system glitch. The subsidy would have been applied to the account to have triggered the messages. There are multiple variables that would have caused the amount to be paid for electricity each month to change, including but not limited to: changes in the amount of electricity you use, changes in FX, and changes in the fuel charge applied to usage.”

In response to the feedback, one man told the Business Observer, “The Jamaican dollar has gone down (revalued) and oil prices have gone down. A lie dem a tell. A scam dem a scam.”

— Avia Ustanny Collinder

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