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JIS News

As the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) carries out its mandate to provide 100 per cent access to electricity island wide, the Programme has, since its incorporation in 1975, constructed more than 5,000 kilometres of pole lines and wired some 66,000 households.
Chief Engineer of the REP, Samuel Marshall tells JIS News that in the 1970s only some 50 per cent of the population had access to electricity and today, approximately 92 per cent of citizens have access, with the REP accounting for some 12 per cent of the Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPSCo) customer base.
During the 2004/05 fiscal year, the programme completed two major projects. Under the revolving fund ‘M’ project a total of 1,325 houses were wired while under the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) 2003/04 project, 638 houses were wired and 35 kilometres of electrical pole lines installed.
The revolving fund ‘M’ project, focused on a total of 60 different areas throughout all parishes. “When we do our projects, we try to have it as equitably distributed throughout the island as possible. At any one point in time, any project will have some representation from each parish in terms of areas that will be benefiting from the programme,” Mr. Marshall explains.
In terms of project execution, this is usually done through contractors, “because what we need is specialized skills to do those works, so we have to contract the house wiring to electricians or the construction of the lines to electrical contractors,” he says.
The Chief Engineer says that while there are always numerous requests from communities, areas are selected based on certain criteria. “For example, the number of houses per kilometre of extension.before we construct a line, we have to have at least 15 houses along that route length per kilometre that would require house wiring assistance from REP, for which the new construction would provide access to electricity,” he explains.
The programme also examines the rate of growth in the area and the general income level, and the ability of the residents living in the area to pay based on the level of economic activity. The proximity of the existing power distribution facilities to the area is also a factor. “Our biggest hurdle is funding because these exercises are normally very expensive.to construct one kilometer of pole line, costs over $1million,” Mr. Marshall notes.
He informs that the REP’s most recent major project was funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and that the programme was in the process of seeking to access another loan. “One of their requirements for funding was to complete a socio-economic evaluation of the previous projects, which has been done and will be submitted to the PIOJ (Planning Institute of Jamaica). Hopefully, we will be getting a favourable response from them,” he says.
The REP is sustained by the government through an allocation in the national budget, as well as funding by international lending agencies. Some $50 million was allocated in the 2004/05 budget for the REP.
“We are going to continue our mandate of achieving 100 per cent of electrification. The government has shown its commitment to the programme and they are assiduously seeking funds to sustain the REP programme,” Mr. Marshall asserts, further informing that so far this year, one project has been formulated. This is the revolving fund ‘O’ project, which will seek to wire another 800 houses in 40 different areas across the island.
“We have done quite a bit over the 30 years that we have been in operation,” Mr. Marshall remarks, noting that while the REP may not be able to get to some areas as quickly as these communities would like, the programme was working ardently to do so.
With the aid of a $50 million allocation in the 2005/06 budget, the Rural Electrification Project (REP) will among other things, complete the remaining pole line construction in the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) 40-kilometre project.
The main targets for 2005/06 are to increase the number of customers responding to marketing in the GoJ targeted 800 houses, and complete and certify house wiring. Also to be increased are the number of inner city households responding to marketing in the pilot phase of the Urban Electricity Regularization Project, which targets 800 houses, and complete wiring for certification.
In addition, wiring and certification of the remaining 250 houses in the revolving fund ‘M’ are to be completed as well as wiring of the 1,000 houses to be funded from revolving fund ‘O’. Further, private projects funded outside the budget are to be completed and marketing of the REP’s services will continue.
The project further aims to increase the number of customers responding to marketing in the revolving fund ‘N’ to a targeted 1,000 households, and complete wiring and certification of these houses.
The REP Limited was established following a feasibility study that determined that there was a need for such an entity. The company was incorporated to undertake the expansion of the electricity services to rural areas where such services would not be a financially viable investment for a commercial entity.
According to the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2002, there has been a 28.8 per cent increase in the proportion of the population using electricity for lighting purposes over the last ten years, and a 67 per cent decline in the size of the population using kerosene over the same period.
The report said electricity was used by 94.3 per cent of the households in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) with a similarly high level of access for households in Other Towns (92.4 per cent) and 80.9 for Rural Areas.
Other Towns and Rural Areas showed an increase in the use of electricity for lighting with Rural Towns having the greater increase of 4.3 percentage points and the latter, 1.4 percentage points.
The report, published by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) and the REP through the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, noted the contribution of the programme to the electrification of rural homes.