Tag: Electric power industry

Tomblin admits stemming the problem her toughest task

Jamaica Public Service President and CEO Kelly Tomblin admitting that the company’s decision to cut electricity supply to some communities, because of non-payment, pained her.

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.

Jamaica Observer

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.

ENERGY SAVING PROJECTS

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.

Gleaner

From left: Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connecting the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

As the debate intensifies over the possible rate increases which could face Jamaicans as more and more customers leave the Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPS) grid, there are calls for a collaborative approach to the issue.

Manager of the Grid Performance Department at the JPS, Lincoy Small, says the various stakeholders must engage in dialogue to find an approach to provide the cheapest source of electricity to Jamaicans.

According to Small, it cannot be a matter of either renewable energy (RE) or staying on the JPS grid but a combination of the two.

“JPS is not telling people that renewable is not the way to go, because JPS even operates renewable facilities, but the key thing is to get them (grid and RE) working together in tandem to come up with the best synergy of what is best for the customer and what is best for the country,” said Small.

His comments came as Robert Wright, president of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association, told The Sunday Gleaner he has no desire for Jamaicans to leave the JPS grid.

Grid Stability

Wright said he strongly believes RE should be maximised and not just limited to large systems scattered across the island, but smaller systems distributed right across the country.

“When you have these smaller systems spread across the country it provides for better grid stability, and also it allows for more people to participate in clean energy as opposed to simply relying on large solar farms,” said Wright.

But Small said, based on experience due to the unpredictability of RE, the JPS sometimes has to resort to load shedding when customers jump on and off the grid.

He reiterated that JPS’s customers could face additional cost if the impact of RE on the grid is not handled carefully.

“So we are accepting solar power from the customers and as soon as something happens it drops off, and does so much quicker than the grid can even respond on some of those occasions, and as a result you have to be running expensive machines that are quicker to deal with those sun drop-offs or have to shed people’s light,” argued Small.

“And if you run these expensive machines or shed people’s light it means the overall cost to run the grid is going to be absorbed by the customer; you are going to have to pay for a more expensive energy source.”

The JPS executive said the company is actively seeking to incorporate new technology to deal with the loss of the intermittent renewable resources.

But Wright argued that the good news for Jamaicans is that the cost of RE is declining rapidly, enabling it to compete with traditional sources of energy.

“A system that a typical household would need in Jamaica two years ago would cost $1 million; that same system today cost $500,000, so we have seen a significant drop in prices,” said Wright.

“Also what is revolutionary is that the cost of batteries has gone down a lot, so now, even more than before, we will be able to offer that to residential customers at an affordable price.

“What is becoming more available now are systems called micro-inverters, and these allow you to install a very simple rooftop system which is cheaper, faster to install and is more appropriate for affordable housing developments, and so on.”

Batteries Expensive

But Small countered that with solar and wind on average only available for 20 and 35 per cent of the day, respectively, and the cost of buying and replacing batteries being expensive, it might be cheaper for customers to get their power from the JPS grid when RE is not available.

“It (solar) is a good thing to have, but it cannot be operated in isolation, and that is something a lot of people in the solar business not telling their customers,” said Small.

“Because even if you get a panel or a wind turbine and you get the battery, you are going to need a grid to at least charge up that battery for the 80 per cent of the time you are without solar or the 65 per cent of the time you are without wind.

“Plus, you will have to be replacing the battery every two to three years for full value, and batteries cost much more than solar panels.”

Small said the JPS is focused on supplying power as cheaply as possible so persons can take the cheap power from the grid rather than go buy a battery and use the solar power and the wind when it is available.

With Jamaica being a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the utilisation of more RE forms part of the National Energy Policy which sees the country aiming to have 30 per cent RE penetration by 2030.

The country is currently at approximately 10 per cent of the quota, with roughly 300 net billing customers (those who have solar systems which allows them to consume energy and sell surplus) and around 10 larger customers.

Gleaner

KellyTomblinL20120417RB

For full article with audio clips click here

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.

Nationwide

Solar Plant

For full article with interview  clips click here

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.

Nationwide

A field of photovoltaic solar panels providing alternative to the supply from the JPS.

With many local entities turning to solar systems or other renewable systems to reduce their reliance on more expensive energy supplied by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), there is a another indication that persons who remain on the JPS grid could face the consequences.

“We all should be concerned and thoughtful. You don’t want everybody who can afford solar on their roof going off the grid because you would still have to pay for the grid,” CEO of the JPS, Kelly Tomblin, told The Sunday Gleaner during a recent interview.

“How do we take care of a particular company so that we also take care of the whole? How do we find a way to make it affordable for everybody and don’t just let people cherry-pick off the grid?” added Tomblin.

There is no official registry of the amount of renewable energy being utilised on the island, but it is estimated that approximately 35 megawatts of renewable energy has been installed between residential and business customers in recent years.

The target is to have 20 per cent of the country’s energy need being supplied by renewable sources by 2018, moving to 30 per cent by 2030.

Energy Sales

The JPS has recorded four years of decline in energy sales from 2010 to 2014, but has seen a turnaround in the last two years with a two per cent increase in 2015 and a four per cent increase in 2016.

“This could be due to the fact that the cost of electricity to customers has dropped by about 25 per cent over that time (usage tends to increase when the price of electricity is lower),” the JPS said in an emailed response to questions from our news team.

According to the JPS, while it has not yet seen any revenue fallout from renewable energy installations, it recognises “that energy sales could have been higher if some customers had not gone off the grid”.

If more paying customers move to renewables and leave the JPS, the company will be selling to a smaller group of paying customers and could be forced to find alternative ways to remain profitable, which could see electricity cost increase for some customers.

If Top Customers Left

Tomblin admitted that if the company’s top 50 customers were all to leave the grid it would cause a serious problem, but she argued that she is confident that these companies are cognisant of their responsibility to the Jamaican people.

“I am really encouraged, having been in meetings with our top 50 customers, and we are having a lot of meetings with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Energy Committee to say how we can balance personal and country interest,” said Tomblin.

“People who are adding solar are doing so during the day; that is not when Jamaica has a peak. So unless they have storage we have to maintain the same power plant and the same grid, because they come on the JPS system at nights, so they still have to pay and, therefore, it is not that much of an impact to the system,” said Tomblin.

But PSOJ President Paul Scott said the decision to remain on the grid or not is one entities will have to decide based on what is best for their business.

“I am aware of some members who have not come off the grid because of the impact it might have on residential users, while other members have come off the grid,” said Scott, who is a member of the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team.

“So one must make their own economic decision based upon their own situation. Serious companies would take that (impact on residential users) into consideration. I would encourage our members to make decisions that will impact the overall competitiveness of Jamaica. Different industries have different utility requirements and therefore, you can’t generalise.”

According to Scott, the use of the grid will change over time, as PSOJ members, and the private sector as a whole, are always going to calculate the cost of energy as a significant part of their business.

The Governor General said the Government will seek to ensure that Jamaicans have ownership in the island’s sole electricity generation and distribution company, Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS)

Sir Patrick disclosed this morning that the Administration will this year sell its remaining stake in JPS.

The Government owns 19.9 per cent of the light and power company.

The Governor General said an enterprise team is to be set up to lead the divestment.

The opposition has objected to the Government’s divestment of its JPS shares.

Opposition Spokesman on Energy, Phillip Paulwell, has described the move as ill-advised and untimely.

Paulwell argued that the sale would deprive the company of the opportunity to maximise the expected increase in its assets.

Gleaner

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.

‘Inaccurate Conclusions’

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.

This is one of the 330 smart-ready street lights in New Kingston which the JPS has retrofitted to accommodate the addition of intelligent controls to the LED fixtures for the maintenance and controls of lights in the area. The smart street light initiative will be rolled out from 2017-2020.
The plan to transform Kingston into the Caribbean’s first smart city has inched closer to becoming a reality with the identification of two preferred vendors by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for its Smart LED street light project.

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.

SUPPORT CRIME FIGHTING

“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.

Gleaner

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) says at least 20,000 customers are still without power due to the impact of heavy winds across Jamaica.

The heavy winds are being caused by a Cold Front which is affecting the island.

Corporate Communications Officer at the JPS, Audrey Williams, says the restoration efforts by work crews are being hampered by the windy conditions.

Williams says the majority of the customers who are still without electricity are in Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine.

 Noting that the company’s customer care centre has been inundated by telephone calls, Williams says the JPS is appealing to customers for patience as it works to restore electricity.