Gov’t Seeking to Increase Electricity Access by Rural Households


The Government is seeking a US$9.4 million loan from Venezuela for the wiring of 6,000 homes and the construction of 307 distribution lines island-wide, as it aims for full electrification of the island over the next three to four years.
Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Programme (REP), Keith Garvey, addressing the monthly meeting of the Manchester Parish Council held recently at the Council’s Chambers in Mandeville, said that loan will be matched by US$2.4 million of local funds.
“That is something that we look forward to. All the parties involved are trying very hard to get that onboard because that would see REP pushing into a number of areas that we are unable to touch now because of resources,” he said.
The project, once implemented, will bring the island’s electricity coverage to 97 per cent, Mr. Garvey said, noting that “there is a plan on the board now by the Minister (of Energy and Mining), James Robertson, where over the next three to four years, we want to see if all of Jamaica can be fully electrified.”
Mr. Garvey informed that over the past two years, the REP has completed some 87 kilometres of distribution lines with about 2,000 customers benefitting and that “there is another 50 kilometres that is planned that we are now presently preparing material for. We have just passed through the National Contracts Commission (NCC) and its now at the Ministry of Finance waiting to go to Cabinet for approval for us to buy wires from overseas, because most of what we use in the pole line industry is not manufactured here. We have to go overseas to do that.”
He noted that the REP will be boosting the voltage of electricity to 220 volts, which will result in an increase in the $42,000 charged to customers, to wire their homes. “We realised that the rural householders are really poor persons, farmers predominantly, so they would not be able to come up with all the money to wire these houses. So what we do is to give them a loan, and it is a no interest loan,” Mr. Garvey said.
Householders are required to pay 10 per cent of the $42,000 cost up-front to bring the electricity to their homes and to pay the difference over four years at no interest. This balance is reflected on the monthly electricity bill of the householder as the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) collects the outstanding amount on behalf of the REP.
“We encourage the customers to pay back that portion because the money that you pay back goes into what is called a revolving fund and this is monitored by the JPS for us in terms of the collection portion and that money now goes into a pool of funds, which comes back to the REP to do more houses,” Mr. Garvey informed. He said that the compliance rate among rural households in repaying the loan is 97 per cent to 98 per cent.
The REP was incorporated in 1975 as an executive agency of the Government, to undertake the expansion of electricity services to rural areas where such services would not be a financially viable investment for a commercial entity. The agency provides the infrastructure, while the wiring of the house is the responsibility of the householder.
The REP, since inception, has enabled 74,000 householders to receive electricity. Eight per cent of Jamaicans are currently without electricity, amounting to between 17,000 to 18,000 persons.

JIS Social