Kelly Tomblin didn’t hesitate when she admitted that the greatest challenge she faced in her five years at Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) was electricity theft.In fact, the power company’s president and CEO, who is leaving next month, managed a chuckle as she spoke about the problem that has plagued her company for decades.
“You know, it is really hard to deal with the amount of electricity theft in Jamaica, it’s really hard,” she told the Jamaica Observer with a heavy sigh.
“We estimate about 180,000 homes, that’s about a million people”, who are benefiting from electricity theft, Tomblin said in an interview at her office last Wednesday.
Frustrated by the level and persistence of the theft, JPS, in January this year, said it was ready to name, shame, and prosecute offenders — a 180-degree turn in its policy of declining to take legal action against electricity thieves who, Tomblin had disclosed last year, were costing the company US$2 million per month.
“We now strongly believe that if we do not prosecute, name and shame, we cannot win. We will therefore be working more closely with the police to make arrests and prosecution a major part of our anti-theft strategy going forward,” JPS’s Director of Revenue Security Major George Kates wrote in the company’s Energy Matters column published in the Observer in January.
But even amidst the hard approach Tomblin has empathy for Jamaicans, who she believes are unable to pay for the utility.
“My heart’s torn because you have people who absolutely cannot pay,” she lamented last Wednesday. Her pain, she said, got worse when the company took a decision to cut electricity to communities where theft was more than 80 per cent.
“That’s the one that leaves me with the most pain… that one moment of turning the power off,” she admitted.
“We can’t keep giving power to these communities and make other people pay. That was a defining moment for us, because I think we said we just cannot take this any more,” Tomblin told the Sunday Observer.
“We did cut off people, and we had a cease-and-desist order from the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) and public outrage, but for us it’s just like it comes to a point where you have to say the situation is not being addressed,” Tomblin explained.
Although electricity theft is now a crime punishable by a heavy fine and/or five years in prison, JPS has been working with communities to halt the practice.
That effort, Tomblin said, started under an agreement with the previous Government for a community renewal programme which involves the installation of prepaid meters.
The programme was implemented in 10 communities and appears to be working well.
“One of the things I’m proud of is, I was just in Majesty Gardens — where we have community representatives who are helping people get power,” Tomblin said.
“I’m excited because these last few months we’ve seen losses go down. We’re happy we’re seeing a downward trend, the first time in a long time. This is the best performance we’re seeing in four years,” she added.
The improvement, while not yet in double figures, is significant as, according to Winsome Callum, director, corporate communications, the company actually saw a stabilisation of the losses before the movement south.
“It was a big thing just to keep it from going up,” said Callum, who sat in on the interview.
She attributed the development to a combination of strategies. “We continue to pull down [illegal connections], but we also continue to do a lot more with technology,” Callum explained.
In 2015, JPS took down 205,300 throw-ups — basically crude, illegal connections found mostly in depressed communities — and arrested 783 people for electricity theft that resulted in a loss of US$18.8 million to the company.
The power company continues to argue that it cannot solve the problem alone; the responsibility needs to be shared by political representatives who have influence over large numbers of people, as well as law-abiding Jamaicans.
“Can you imagine what a culture change it would be if people really got legitimate electricity throughout Jamaica?” Tomblin asked.
Kelly Tomblin, who has been the face of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) since she joined the light and power company as president and chief executive officer in 2012, is on her way out of the company, and heading to take up the CEO position at the United States-based power company, INTREN, effective July 10.
Tomblin will take over the day-to-day running of the firm from Loretta Rosenmayer, the firm’s founder and current CEO, who will now chair the board of what has become one of the leading utility contractors in North America.
Up to press time, Tomblin was off the island and unavailable for a comment. However, 4-traders.com, a reputable international stock market and financial news website, said Tomblin had confirmed to them that she is to be the new CEO at INTREN.
“INTREN would not be what it is today without Loretta’s vision, leadership and unwavering commitment to high standards and values,” Tomblin was quoted by the website as saying. “I am honoured to lead the INTREN team and continue the progress evolving before me.”
According to reports, Tomblin was selected from a competitive selection process from a strong field of candidates.
“She is a highly impressive and respected executive known for her ability to build diverse, meaningful cultures in a collaborative leadership style. As a recipient of the prestigious 2016 Platt’s Global Energy CEO of the Year Award, Kelly topped an impressive list of finalists leading companies in the United States and around the world,” the website stated.
During her time at JPS, Tomblin introduced several energy saving projects, as well as the use of liquefied natural gas in the country’s energy mix, even as she guided the light and power company through a profound transformation.
“This evolution comes at an extraordinary time for INTREN,” a report quoted Rosenmayer as saying. “Our momentum is strong, and our management team and employees have built an exceptional company that is one of the most trusted and respected in the industry. I’m confident Kelly is ideally positioned for her new role to continue our growth.”
INTREN has been an innovative solution partner, dedicated to building and maintaining the infrastructure of the energy industry for more than 25 years, and has served many of the nation’s foremost utility companies, private contractors and developers, and municipalities and cooperatives.
President of the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, is rejecting claims that she’s using scare tactics to keep businesses from turning to renewable sources of energy.
In an interview yesterday on Nationwide This Morning, Chief Executive Officer of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, accused JPS of using ‘scare tactics’.
This was in response to comments attributed to Ms. Tomblin in a recent Gleaner report that the company could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave the grid.
But speaking with Nationwide News yesterday, Ms. Tomblin sought to clarify the comments she made to the Gleaner newspaper.
She’s insisting she’s not using a scare tactics.
Ms. Tomblin says she would prefer companies stay on the power grid.
This, as the intermittent use of the grid is more of a burden on JPS than if a company were to be removed completely.
And, Ms. Tomblin says the JPS doesn’t build LNG plants contrary to Mr Robinson’s claim.
He’d said the light and power company has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.
She’s also refuting his claim that JPS’s rates are going up.
CEO of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, says the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, is using scare tactics to keep businesses from leaving the grid and turning to alternative energy.
In a recent interview with the Gleaner newspaper, JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin was quoted as saying that it could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave their grid.
Robinson says could mitigate any losses from clients who’ve switched to alternative energy by running a more efficient operation and doing more to combat theft.
He says JPS is already doing a lot to diversify its own fuel sources to keep energy costs down.
And, Robinson is also criticizing the power company for being hypocritical.
He claims JPS has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is preparing for a battle with the Government over any attempt to review its operating licence.
The JPS was put on its guard last Friday when Government senator and chief technical adviser to the finance minister, Aubyn Hill, declared that the Andrew Holness-led administration is obliged to review the licence of the light and power company because of threats to the Jamaican economy.
Opening the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, Hill called for a review of the modified licence issued to JPS last January, because it “seems to be quite opposed to the interest of Jamaicans”.
“We have to look at that licence carefully [and] as a new Government, we’re obliged to,” Hill told his parliamentary colleagues.
But Kelly Tomblin, the president and chief executive officer of the JPS, in a quick response, rejected Hill’s reasons for questioning the changes to the licence and expressed the hope that his comments would not suggest that Holness will shred the contract.
“I’m sure, similar to how the Government has continued on the framework for fuel diversity, that this Government certainly wouldn’t suggest that a licence negotiated in good faith, in which the JPS has made investments, would be negated by a subsequent government,” said Tomblin.
“Surely, he’s (Hill) not suggesting that,” added Tomblin.
In his Senate presentation, Hill argued that he was making the call from his position as a senator.
“Because I may have some influence on policy, I do not lose my right as a senator to bring up independent issues. My position is quite different from a recommendation, and if I gave a recommendation I probably would not be speaking on it publicly,” said Hill.
The international banker argued that the replacement of the price cap regime with the revenue cap in the licence “could dampen economic growth” because JPS’s growth is no longer tied to that of the economy.
“A good argument can be made that the revenue cap approach blunts any incentive on JPS’s part to support the expansion of renewable sources of energy or to improve efficiencies in their current business,” said Hill, who is the chairman of Innovative Renewable Energy & Electronics Limited.
He said giving the JPS the right of first refusal to replace generating plants due for retirement entrenches the company’s near-monopoly and is inconsistent with international standards and Jamaica’s national energy policy.
Tomblin rejected those claims, arguing that Hill was making “inaccurate conclusions”.
“We negotiated with the Government for our licence amendments that we believe serve the country. We have about 31 guaranteed standards that are monitored by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).
“Our overriding goal is to support economic growth. This (Hill’s arguments) requires a more fulsome discussion with the utility,” said Tomblin.
Hill’s call came days after the OUR announced new regulation which should give it more power to monitor the operations of the JPS and other entities which generate or supply electricity.
The regulation will govern the operational standards and established procedures for handling the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and dispatch of electricity across the island.
According to the OUR, the regulation adopts five grid codes, which are generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and dispatch.
“The codes, which were finalised in August 2016, have been developed in parallel, and are designed to be used in conjunction with each other,” said the OUR.
Petra Systems and FosRich Group of Companies in partnership with Philips Lighting, are the companies selected to spearhead the initiative, which the JPS plans to roll out across the country, starting this year.
Following the selection of the LED vendors, the next step for the energy company is to identify suitable entities for the installation of the lighting fixtures, as well as provision and management of the smart features. Its target is a total of 110,000 street lights, with consumers, the company and the entire country set to benefit.
“In addition to lowering energy costs and improving energy efficiency, smart street lights can facilitate the smart technology to support crime fighting, through the use of image sensing (including allowing for closed-circuit television),” chief technology officer, JPS, Gary Barrow, explained in a press release, hinting also at positive environmental spin-offs. “Smart street lights will also reduce the carbon emissions from power consumption.”
Other benefits of the smart street light system include its ability to detect and report light failure per location; report maintenance and repairs of lights; as well as measure and report energy usage per lamp. The street light system will be managed by a control centre that will facilitate ease of monitoring and other aspects of management.
The JPS recently retrofitted 330 streetlights in the New Kingston area with LED lights, as part of its Smart City pilot. The next phase of the project involves the addition of intelligent controls to the LED fixtures for the maintenance and controls of the lights in the area. The smart street lights are the first phase of several technologies that will be deployed to make New Kingston one of the first smart cities in the Caribbean. The smart street light initiative is one of Jamaica’s largest energy efficiency projects and will be rolled out from 2017-2020.