JIS News

The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) is reporting that approximately 170,000 of 500,000 households are now being supplied with electricity following a suspension of service as a result of damage to its system during Hurricane Ivan.
Addressing journalists at a press briefing at the company’s New Kingston office yesterday (Sept.14), Senior Vice President in charge of Generation, Robert Patrick said demand was now at 140 megawatt, which is just about 20 per cent of usual demand.
He explained that while the company was able to reinstate more than half of its assets, elements of these circuits were yet to be restored. “Energising defective assets to the system at this point could result in a shut down of that system again”, he said.
Mr. Patrick pointed out that although some poles may not be on the ground restoration of power might be hampered by water damage, overgrowth of vegetation on the wires, which could lead to fires or foreign materials coming in contact or too close to electricity poles.
Overseas assistance will be sought to aid in the restoration process and this will involve some 50 personnel, equipment and a heavy-lift helicopter to get some lines back up. Some 2000 distribution lines were brought down by the hurricane, Mr. Patrick disclosed.
Nonetheless, the light and power company cautiously predicted that approximately 90 per cent of its customers could see a restoration of electricity within another three to four weeks. At present, Mr. Patrick pointed out that the company would be giving priority to “critical areas” including hospitals, airports, mortuaries, water systems and commercial operations supplying fuel, food and other necessities.
“We have restored hospitals in the Corporate Area. We have restored the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, the hospitals in Savanna-la-Mar and the (Bustamante) Children’s Hospital,” he stated.
According to Mr. Patrick, a few customers were in remote locations where there had been significant damage. There was also severe damage to the company’s system in St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Portland, St. Mary, St. Ann and St. Thomas and as a result, hospitals in those areas are yet to receive electricity supply, including the Princess Margaret Hospital in St. Thomas.
Additionally, he said that water pumps were being restored as a matter of urgency and the JPSCo was working with the National Water Commission (NWC) to determine which water systems were to be given priority.
The JPSCo said that it could not at this time determine the cost of the damage sustained to its system as the assessment process was still ongoing.
In terms of recovery cost, the company’s Chairman, Charles Matthews informed that while the Office of Utilities Regulation had initiated a hurricane disaster insurance fund, through which the company could collect US$2 million per year over a five-year period, the fund had only been in place for two months and was therefore insufficient to meet the rehabilitation cost.
He informed however, that there was a built-in recovery mechanism in the rates charged to customers that could provide some relief. He explained that if the money recovered was adequate then there would be no need to increase electricity rates at this time.

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