March 2013

The Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) has pushed back the date for providing a recommendation to the government on the supply of 360 megawatts of power to the national grid.

The OUR says it decided to move the deadline from March 31 to April 15 after it received more proposals than expected.

According to the OUR, it has received proposals from five entities which will require more time for it to carry out its analysis.

The OUR says it has engaged the services of an independent consultant to assist in evaluating the proposals.

The 360 megawatts project is part of efforts by the government to bring down the cost of electricity.

The project was originally awarded to the Jamaica Public Service Company but the request for proposal process was reopened after the light and power entity failed to satisfy all the requirements of the bid.

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JAMAICA Public Service Company (JPS) will next month begin to roll out retail stores that will sell energy-saving products.

The light and power company says the initiative will kick-start a more ’empowering’ engagement with its customers going forward.

Nicolette Hind shows off some of the eStore products during a promotion.

 

“It’s actually the first time we are venturing into anything like this. We always supported and encouraged; what we are doing now is investing in empowerment, so we are going further,” Winsome Callum, JPS’s head of corporate communications, told Caribbean Business Report during an exclusive interview at the firm’s Ruthven Road, Kingston, outlet on Wednesday.

The new retail stores, branded “eStore”, will be located inside existing JPS customer service offices, with the first store scheduled to be opened on April 4 at the Ruthven Road outlet.

JPS will initially offer up to 40 different energy-savings products, including a variety of power efficient gadgets, timers and sensors, said the company’s director of sales and marketing, Garth McKenzie.

“Our products will fall into three major categories: equipment that will save energy, equipment that will protect your investment and equipment that will help you to understand your usages,” said McKenzie, noting that the company is targeting both the residential and corporate markets.

JPS has partnered with a number of overseas and local suppliers, including Nicorp Limited and its brand of surge protectors.

While items will be on sale, the stores will primarily focus on teaching consumers about energy consumption and how to save, McKenzie said.

“We will be consumed with looking for those things that can help people to change their habits and improve their energy efficiency. Energy efficiency has to be more than just wishing it; it needs some education, tools and gadgets,” said the sales and marketing executive.

JPS, which has 15 offices islandwide, will officially launch up to four ‘eStores’ before the end of the year, but will be offering the new services at all the locations. The company did not disclose how much money was being invested in the venture.

“We will be dressing up about two or three more locations (after Ruthven Road) by the end of the year. For the other dozen or so that won’t be dressed up, we will be branding the space to let people know that there is an eStore operation there,” McKenzie said.

JPS, for years, has had an uneasy relationship with the Jamaican public, who have become increasingly frustrated with high electricity bills and accuse the company of being rapacious. The relationship hit a low point two years ago when a wide cross-section of Jamaicans, including a government senator and an Opposition member of parliament at the time, joined a social network campaign and wore black in protest against exorbitant electricity bills from the energy provider.

McKenzie said the ‘eStore’ initiative is aimed at improving the company’s relationship with customers.

“We recognise that the value that JPS is giving is not matching up with the cost and this is an attempt to improve that value proposition,” McKenzie said.

“What people are unhappy with is the apparent lack of control that they have over their electricity bills,” he continued. “We are a business so we expect to earn money, but more importantly we need to have customers that are more empowered so that they are less disgruntled.”

JPS announced earlier this week that customers will see a 10 per cent hike in their electricity bills this month, largely due to higher fuel costs and the depreciation of the Jamaica dollar.

Against this background, Callum noted that different macroeconomic factors have made it now even more critical for Jamaicans to focus on energy savings. JPS wants to help consumers realise this goal, she said.

“People say they have tried conservation and they don’t see the results, so we want to help them to actually see results,” Callum noted.

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A Jamaican man, working in the United States energy industry, has won a prestigious award for his work on a safety project that makes it possible for utility workers to detect stray voltage with a smart phone or tablet.

RICHARDSON… this award is gratifying because it recognises our commitment to public safety

Paul Richardson was named a winner of the Technology Transfer Award from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a national energy research organization. Richardson is a district operator in system and transmission operations at New York power company Con Edison, where he has worked since 2004. He grew up in Portmore, St Catherine and attended Excelsior High School before migrating to the US as a teenager.

Richardson worked with two fellow Con Edison employees on research into using smart phone and tablet personal computer technology to detect contact voltage on streets. The technology could make it possible for a utility worker with a smart phone or tablet to detect contact voltage, also known as stray voltage, the company said, noting that the faster contact voltage is detected, the faster crews can make repairs, ensuring public safety.

“We live in a world that is power dependent and as technology advances the demand for that power increases. At Con Edison, nothing is more important than the safety of the New Yorkers who rely our service and the safety of our own employees,” Richardson told Caribbean Business Report yesterday.

“This award is gratifying because it recognizes our commitment to public safety,” he added.

At Con Edison, Richardson is responsible for switching electric transmission and distribution equipment in and out of service for routine work and emergency conditions.

“My primary objectives are the safety of our personnel, the reliability of our service and protecting our equipment and our customers’ equipment from damage,” he said.

He said the project came about as the company constantly explores new technologies and methods to make its service safer.

“This project was a part of that process. The technology could make it possible for a utility worker to use a portable device to detect objects that are inadvertently energized so that repairs can be made,” he said.

Richardson said his interest in engineering has its genesis from a summer internship he had at the Caribbean Cement Company.

“There I had the opportunity to observe industrial manufacturing and the technical aspects of maintaining a manufacturing plant,” he told Caribbean Business Report.

Now living in White Plains, New York, Richardson is a graduate of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University with a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

Richardson was one of eight Con Edison employees who won Technology Transfer Awards for projects to make the delivery of electricity safer and more reliable.

Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, with approximately US$12 billion in annual revenues and US$41 billion in assets. The utility provides electric, gas and steam service to more than three million customers in New York City and Westchester County, New York.

“We are in a constant and relentless search for technology and methods that can improve our service,” said Craig Ivey, the president of Con Edison. “The men and women of Con Edison are proud to see eight members of our team recognized for research that will benefit the New Yorkers we feel privileged to serve.”

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THE Jamaica Public Service (JPS) says customers will see a 10 per cent hike in their electricity bills this month, largely due to higher fuel costs and the depreciation of the Jamaica dollar.

“The high cost of the fuel bought from Petrojam to produce electricity, along with the continued devaluation of the Jamaican dollar, have resulted in an increase of approximately 10 per cent on customers’ March bills, relative to the bills they received in February,” the light and power company said in a release last night.

We note Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell’s intention of reintroducing the scheme that gave households energy-saving light bulbs in exchange for incandescent ones.

We back the idea if the Cubans, who donated the first set of bulbs, do in fact have more to give, and if we can be assured that there will be proper oversight. For the last effort was not only an embarrassment to Mr Paulwell’s People’s National Party administration, but Jamaica, generally.

The minister’s then deputy, and others, were accused of siphoning off millions of light bulbs for personal benefit and of setting up dummy companies to manage the distribution. These allegations are still before the court.

Any new arrangement must be beyond suspicion.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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