THE Government is seeking to implement new policy initiatives that could reduce electricity rates by eight per cent by tackling non-technical losses, including theft of the commodity.
The policy has been developed by a multi-sectoral non-technical loss (NTL) working group with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Making the announcement during his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate, Energy and Technology Minister Daryl Vaz said that the strategic policies are aimed at eliminating non-technical losses through improved loss management, metering infrastructure, and supplementary financing.
“If successful, the policy initiatives … could reduce electricity rates by 8.7 per cent or more. Can you imagine getting a bill with eight to 10 per cent less just based on this alone?” Vaz said.
Through this initiative working group — which is comprised of representatives from the energy ministry, Jamaica Public Service (JPS), the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, the Office of Utilities Regulation, the ministries of Justice, Finance and the Public Service, and Local Government and Rural Development — the Government is seeking to change the culture that is driving the complex problem of electricity theft, which accounted for 70 per cent of non-technical losses incurred by JPS last year.
Stressing that electricity theft is a recurring and growing threat to the electricity grid and, to a greater extent, public safety, Vaz said that the Government is committed to implementing new policy initiatives as well as the recommendations of studies that have been undertaken in order to decisively deal with this matter.
He noted that the ministry has concluded, with the assistance of USAID, 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 most importantly, enforcement.
“It is time to stop studying … We are committed … to really take this report and to start to implement it and work in tandem with everybody to deal with it,” he said, adding that the ministry also completed a study in September last year funded by the Inter-American Development Bank to further address the reduction of non-technical losses.
Vaz pointed out, however, that to adequately address the issue of electricity theft, it would require a vast amount of government resources.
“The government has a moral responsibility, and we have talked about it for long enough. But what I can tell you definitively is that it’s going to take a significant amount of allocation of government funds to comprehensively deal with this problem. It’s not a Band-Aid situation,” he said, noting that the best efforts to tackle the problem will be through the use of technology.
In the meantime, Vaz urged people stealing electricity to “cease and desist” this practice.
“The risk to life and property is simply not worth it. Your Government is working to reduce the cost of electricity while we assist more Jamaicans with cost-effective ways to regularise their electricity supply,” he said.