Tag: OUR

Outgoing JPS President Kelly Tomblin.

Power utility Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) plans to build a 24.5-megawatt facility to store energy as a safeguard against power outages.

It’s described as the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

JPS plans to build the facility next year, but no cost was disclosed up to press time. It will act like a giant battery that charges when solar- or wind-energy plants generate energy. It then kicks into action, the less power these renewable plants generate due to cloud cover or low wind speeds.

“The proposed initiative will allow JPS to provide a high-speed response when the output from renewables is suddenly reduced to mitigate stability and power quality issues that cause outages to customers,” stated JPS in a release.

The company did not respond immediately to questions seeking more details. It initially said the release, which appeared on the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s website, was not meant to be made public until Monday.

Peak energy usage in Jamaica starts at 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m, which represents a leisure peak, rather than an economic development peak. That becomes important as solar plants reduce power generation just as the peak period starts.


Additionally, wind farms optimally generate power at nights but after peak periods. The storage facility would, therefore, provide value as it comes into effect at peak periods utilising the power already stored.

The facility requires regulatory approval from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) but in anticipation, the JPS board of directors last week signed off on the hybrid energy storage solution, the release stated. The project involves construction of a 24.5MW facility at the Hunts Bay Power Plant Substation, and will be a combination of high-speed and low-speed flywheels and containerised lithium-ion batteries. Once approved for construction, it would become operational by the third quarter of 2018.

“The innovation will help to secure grid stability and reliability in the face of increasing intermittent renewable energy. The energy storage solution will have power readily available in the event that solar and wind renewable systems, suddenly lose power due to cloud cover, reduced wind or other interruptions,” stated the release.

It will also provide a much faster, cost effective and environmentally friendly spinning reserve or backup as an alternative to traditional generation spinning reserve which is required by the company.


Additionally, the JPS is seeking to convert more generating units to use liquefied natural gas (LNG). This will result in increased flexibility of the generating units, as the JPS moves to ensure that customers have a more reliable, affordable and sustainable quality service. JPS continues to steadily diversify from solely heavy oil fuel to include natural gas and some 115MW of renewables.

Energy efficiency is now an integral part of JPS’ push to become a more modern and cleaner energy provider.

Jamaica has an energy intensity of approximately 4,800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per US$1,000 of gross domestic product. To put that into perspective, last December outgoing JPS president Kelly Tomblin described it as one of the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. She indicated that such inefficient use of energy constrains Jamaica’s growth.

The country, however, has made some gains in its efficiency drive. It ranked 92nd in the World Economic Forum’s Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017, up from 98 the year before.

The rise in rank was attributed to the 80MW of renewables added in 2016 and plans for an additional 100MW of renewable this year.

In Jamaica last year, Wigton Wind Farm III added 24MW of renewable capacity, BMR Windfarm added 36.3MW, and WRB Content Solar, 20MW. The country saved around US$18 million (J$2.3 billion) in oil imports based on the 80MW renewable energy projects.

Concurrently, those renewable projects saved 800,000 metric tonnes in toxic carbon emissions, according to the energy ministry.

The April 17, 2016, islandwide power outage cost the Jamaican economy $340 million in losses, stated consultant with the Office of Utilities Regulation Valentine Fagan.

He pointed out that the poor decisions made by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), which resulted in the widespread power failure, had an economic cost that the country cannot afford.

Fagan’s comments came during a meeting of the Economy and Production Committee of Parliament yesterday where the parliamentary body urged the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology to expedite plans to craft a scheme of fines for imposition on the JPS in cases where the country is plunged into darkness as a result of major system failures.


Director General of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) Ansord Hewett told members of the parliamentary committee that the Electricity Act of 2015 provides for a scheme of penalty, which can be enforced in a court of law, but the process could take an inordinately long period to resolve.

However, he said that there is an option to establish a scheme of penalties where the JPS agrees to paying a fine when it breaches certain service requirements.

Hewett said that the OUR has been pushing the ministry to get that arrangement in place, which would provide the regulatory body with an additional tool to impose sanctions if necessary.

The committee was discussing the OUR report on the JPS’s major system failure, which left most parishes without power for several hours on April 17, 2016.

Committee member Fitz Jackson suggested that the penalties sufficiently high to discourage breaches.

“I expect that the fines will be of sufficient magnitude to discourage any breaches,” he insisted.

Hewitt said that the ministry indicated recently that it would shortly be sending the OUR a proposal on the scheme of sanctions for it to review.

Committee chairman Anthony Hylton told his colleagues that in a situation where the JPS holds a monopoly, fines to regulate conduct becomes even more important. Commenting on proposals for penalties and fines to be imposed on the JPS, Sam Davis, head of government and regulatory affairs at the JPS, told the committee that the company did not intend to wait on sanctions to make appropriate decisions and take actions in relation to improved service to customers.


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

 The Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) says it has submitted an action plan to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) outlining its strategy and timelines for fixing the problems which caused the widespread power outage last year.

A total of 547,734 customers were affected by the April 17, 2016 outage which was caused by a major system failure.

The submission of the action plan by the JPS follows several directives and recommendations issued by the OUR to the company in November.

The OUR had also instructed JPS to provide it with an action plan on the implementation of all of the recommendations which should include specific timeframes for their completion and associated implementation costs.

The company will have to address its systems and training to ensure all major transmission maintenance outages are properly planned and coordinated to reduce the system exposure to security risks.

It will also have to address training of its relevant staff including managers on outage management; increase complement and improve competence of protection system staff; and implement a system for upgrading, maintain, test and management of critical equipment.

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.

As of January 1, 2017 the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology took over responsibility for applications for net billing, electric power wheeling and auxiliary connections.

Information about the new arrangements, posted on the ministry website, comes after a period of uncertainty characterised by legislative changes, delays and temporary arrangements.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology

Dr Andrew Wheatley announced in April 2016 that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) would resume accepting applications on behalf of the ministry for net billing. This would be under similar terms as the previously concluded net billing pilot project, which ran for two years until May 2015. Up to that time, the ministry had received 351 applications for net billing, of which 311 were approved.

Net billing allows persons who produce electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar to sell the excess to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), thus offsetting the electricity consumed when they use power from the grid. The OUR was charged with the responsibility for continuing to accept applications until the details of a permanent programme were finalised.

Public education specialist at the OUR, Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, says that with changes to some aspects of the legislation, the responsibility for approving net billing was passed back to the ministry.

“There was a brief hiatus where we had stopped accepting because we said we really wanted to get everything clarified. The ministry subsequently asked the OUR to continue accepting applications. So we agreed to continue until they could sort it out, and now that it has been completed we handed over,” Bennett Marsh said.

According to the information on the ministry”s website, “All persons who are desirous of connecting to the Jamaica Public Service grid are required to obtain a licence from the minister with responsibility for energy. The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, therefore, advises the public that, effective January 1, 2017, all applications for net billing, electric power wheeling and auxiliary connections are to be made directly to the ministry.”


The ministry declined to comment by telephone on the new requirement and did not respond to emailed questions up to press time.

JPS Director of Corporate Communications Winsome Callum said the light and power company was aware of the changes and stood ready to do its part in adding new systems to the grid.

“This new development came out of the review of the net billing process in 2015. It was decided that the ministry would start accepting applications as of January 2017.

“JPS will continue its role in facilitating the contracts and the commissioning of the systems. We will continue our efforts to ensure that the connections are made as seamlessly and as quickly as possible,” Callum said in a written response.


Dr Horace Chang says if given the green light from the utilities regulators, the National Water Commission (NWC) could generate even more power than the Jamaica Public Service (JPS).

Chang, who has responsibility for water in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, said that currently the NWC’s biggest expense is its electricity bill, which averages around $450 million monthly.

“Of course, if the water supply company is allowed to generate its own power without any kind of guidance or regulation, we could end up producing more power than JPS. If we have hydropower, we can produce so much; we have lands we can produce solar power and not only remove ourselves from the grid in terms of supply sources,” Dr Chang argued.

He was addressing the final day of the three-day 14th Annual Conference of the Organisation of Utility Regulators last Friday, held at Secrets Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St James.

He called on the utility regulators to examine the relationship between utilities.

“Can exception be made [in] how you do it and in what way it is done that it doesn’t end up superseding the other? That’s maybe the biggest question,” Dr Chang said. “Regulators have to create the framework in which the company itself can move forward; the broader policy of ownership is decided by the Government.”

The water minister explained that under the current arrangement, if the NWC or the National Irrigation Commission were to “produce power for itself and reuse it”, they would have to first be awarded a licence by the Office of Utilities Regulations.

“Under the current regulator, if you produce power, move it from one venue to the next, you need a licence. And if you are doing a licence, it has to be competitively awarded and that creates challenges,” he argued.

“Certainly, I think we can produce power on site, which we intend to do in a couple of our local outlets, but that raises some challenges.”

Another challenge he highlighted was wheeling, which refers to the scheduling of the energy transfer from one balancing authority to another. Since the wheeling of electric energy requires use of a transmission system, there is often an associated fee which goes to the transmission owners.

“The challenge here is not only wheeling for commercial purposes [and] home users, but since a water company can produce water in large amounts, the question of wheeling within the head of the utility becomes relevant. It is something that needs to be addressed,” Dr Chang said.

“The real impact of water is, it also has a social impact, but it has to be produced at an economical rate. And power becomes one of the big cost factors. For irrigation, in fact, we might not be able to provide our southern plain — which is our major provider of food supply — with irrigated water if we don’t have the right to produce some of the power for ourselves, because farmers cannot afford to pay the JPS bills.”

Jamaica Observer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Caribbean Utility Regulators Conference in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday.

Asserting that “we must get it right”, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has urged utility regulators to take seriously their role in helping the Caribbean ease its dependence on oil and embrace technologies and renewables key to energy diversification.

The regulators’ role, he said, is linked to the creation of partnerships with investors who want returns, consumers and governments pushing for the economic development of their countries.

Holness was addressing the opening ceremony for the 14 Organisation Of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) conference at the Secrets Resorts & Spa in Montego Bay, St James.

A variety of issues are set for discussion over three days by the more than 160 regional and international experts.

However, Holness, noting the importance of energy to the region’s development and the current high levels of dependence on oil, made it clear that the issue should be at the top of the agenda.

“Energy is clearly the mission-critical frontier,” he said, pointing to the role of Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) in helping Jamaica introduce liquefied natural gas (LNG) as part of the energy mix.

“The OUR approved the funding for the conversion of the Jamaica Public Service Bogue plant to enable the move from heavy dependence on oil to diversifying to LNG. I applaud the OUR in this regard for being a strong regulator and helping to make this move a reality – to take Jamaica on this new platform. This is a great example of collaboration among Government, regulator, and utility,” Holness added.

A shipment of LNG supplies arrived in Jamaica last week Saturday, and in two weeks, is expected to be in full use.


The prime minister emphasised that regulators have to take seriously their role in helping the Caribbean Community implement the Caribbean energy policy that was approved in 2013.

That policy promotes a shift in sustainable energy through increased use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, among other things.

“OOCUR, you have your work cut out for you as not only is Jamaica focused on diversifying its energy mix, so, too, is CARICOM, and we must get it right in the region. Access to affordable energy is a necessary requirement for addressing sustainable development in the region,” Holness said.

He also argued that while there is need for partnership with all stakeholders in the provision of utilities, the providers must insist on self-regulation to ensure that standards are upheld and service delivery is at a high quality.

Earlier, Albert Gordon, chairman of OOCUR, said the conference was happening at a time when regulation was becoming more important for sustainable development.

The conference schedule has placed heavy emphasis on renewable energy and investment.

Jamaica and many other small-island states of the Caribbean are heavy importers of oil, which increases their vulnerabilities to external shocks such as sharp oil price rises. Except for Trinidad and Tobago, the only net exporter of oil and natural gas, all other Caribbean countries are net oil importers.

“For importers other than Suriname, around 87 per cent of primary energy consumed is in the form of imported petroleum products. Imports are mostly diesel fuel for electricity generation, gasolene for transportation, and liquefied petroleum gas used as cooking gas in households,” experts noted in a paper titled ‘Caribbean Energy: Macro-Related Challenges’ released in March by the International Monetary Fund.

This, they said, has led to consistently high electricity rates, which affects the competitiveness and development of CARICOM nations.


Andrew Wheatley


A powerful line-up of speakers will address next month’s Organisation of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) 14th annual conference in Montego Bay, St James.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is among those confirmed for the conference, set for the Secrets Resorts and Spa, under the theme, “Regulation: Creating a Spectrum of Opportunities in the Caribbean”. It will run over three days – October 26 to 28.

OOCUR, a non-profit organisation, was established in 2002 by the signatories of six utility regulators across the Caribbean, including Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). It was established to assist in the improvement of utility regulation, facilitate understanding of regulation issues and undertake research, training and development.

Officials of the OUR will be featured heavily in the conference’s proceedings. Among those expected to participate are Albert Gordon, director general, and Joseph Matalon, the chairman. Also expected to address participants from across the Caribbean is Dr Andrew Wheatley, minister of science, energy, technology. This will be his first major conference in Jamaica as portfolio minister in the Holness administration.

The conference should be fully energised when Andrew Thorington, from the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation, presents on the electric utility-regulator relations in the Caribbean. With raging debate in recent times about the need for cleaner energy, there will be a four-member panel discussion on the issue. The participants include Dan Potash, representing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Winston Robotham of the OUR; David Cooke of the Jamaica Public Service; and Dr Xavier Lemaire of University College, London Energy Institute.

The telecommunications regulators are expected to take centre stage on the second day of the conference. Professor Hopeton Dunn, chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, and Julian Wilkins of Caribbean Focus, Global Perspective, are among those expected to make presentations. The day will end with the meeting of the general assembly and then a meeting of OOCUR’s executive council.

Horace Chang, the minister with responsibility for water and housing, will make his presentation on the final day. His ministry has taken on much of the regulatory responsibilities for much of the country’s public bodies and agencies.

There will also be presentations from Skeeta Carasco, regulatory economist at the National Utilities Regulatory Commission, and Dwight DaCosta, deputy chief of party, USAID.



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THE Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) has been given until September 27 to provide a detailed report to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on Saturday’s islandwide blackout.

A release from the OUR said that,as stipulated in the Electricity Act, 2015, the light and power company is obliged to provide a report to the regulator within 30 days of the date of restoration of power.

The OUR said it will indicate the critical data and other necessary information which should be included in the detailed report on the incident. At the meeting between the OUR and the JPS on Tuesday to discuss the power provider’s preliminary report, the implications of the power outage and the way forward, the regulatory body expressed disappointment with the islandwide power outage, the frequency of such events, and the negative impact on customers.

The OUR urged the JPS to be thorough and rigorous in its investigation and analysis of the incident and requested that they outline corrective measures to safeguard against recurrences, the release said. It added that the JPS has agreed to be guided by the position outlined by the regulator regarding the conduct of its investigation.

Deputy director general of the OUR, Hopeton Heron, said: “Once we have received all the required information from the JPS, the OUR is committed to completing its review of the information as well as its own investigation of the outage, within 30 days. We recognise the significant impact that this islandwide outage has had on customers and so we are committed to exerting all efforts to ensure that we quickly and efficiently do our own analysis and make our recommendations.”

He said, too, that the OUR will be insisting on the conduct of a thorough review of the electricity system including their approach to grid planning, design, installation, operation and maintenance.

Jamaica Observer