REP Diversifying Service Through Alternative Energy Sources


The Rural Electrification Programme (REP) will be seeking to diversify the way in which it delivers electricity, to houses in deep rural Jamaica, through the use of alternative sources of energy.
In an interview with JIS news, Keith Garvey, General Manager of the REP noted that the one of the biggest challenges facing the country is soaring oil prices, and this he says will see the nation turning to alternative energy sources.
He says that out of the 22,000 household that REP has island wide, there are between 6,000 and 8,000 persons who he says will have to look at alternate sources of electricity for their household.
“We are seeing that REP has a huge role to play. In order for REP to be viable in the future we will have to have a hybrid. We will continue in extending the grid the way we normally do things, but we have to get involved in more things especially when it comes onto alternative energy sources, which will save the country millions of dollars,” he adds.
Mr. Garvey notes that this is one area where the programme will be working, with the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica in terms of going forward in providing electricity for communities in deep rural Jamaica.
He adds that although alternative energy sources can be expensive, “over time we think that the price will go down..that is the way we have to think now. We are on board in terms of the new way of thinking and the new REP is one in which we will be electrifying homes with solar energy”.
The REP seeks to build single-phase electrical distribution lines and wire houses which are used to feed the customers in the rural parts of Jamaica with electricity.
“When we talk about REP, we are not talking about going to Black River, St. Elizabeth, we are talking about going into deep rural hills. People predominantly in these areas are farmers. There is always a need for the less fortunate persons to have access to electricity so that they could improve their way of life,” Mr. Garvey says.
To date the General Manager says there are more than 74,000 householders in Jamaica which equates to about 12 per cent of Jamaica Public Service (JPS) customer base, which have received electricity through the programme.
In terms of work being done, Mr. Garvey said that the REP has been regularizing electricity in the urban areas, especially inner-city areas.
“Ever so often we hear on the news that kids get electrocuted in these areas, so we are presently working on projects in the inner-city where we regularise giving better wiring allowing people to come on legally onto the Jamaica Public Service grid system,” Mr. Garvey said.
Some of these communities that are currently benefiting from the work of the REP are Arnett Gardens, Olympic Gardens, Majestic Gardens and the Grants Pen area.
He also informs that the REP is seeking to do collaborative work with the National Housing Trust and the National Housing Development Corporation to wire houses.
The Rural Electrification Programme (REP) was set up to extend electricity to rural Jamaica as part of Government’s commitment to provide the entire island with access to electricity, stimulate economic and social activity in rural Jamaica, and provide better quality life in rural communities.
Under the programme, householders will continue to benefit from the revolving loan programme to cover the cost of wiring their premises. Under this scheme, customers will pay only 10 per cent of the cost of wiring with the remainder to be provided through an interest free-loan, which is repayable over four years. The General Manager explains that it will cost each household $23,000 to wire their homes.
“It is really a soft loan and it has worked. Remember the people you are targeting are not people who are making a lot of money, so the key is to provide them with electricity, but you have to make sure that it is affordable electricity,” Mr. Garvey says.
“The compliance rate has been good, our compliance rate in the rural areas has been 95 percent or upwards. In other words, rural people might be poor but they usually pay for what ever you give to them,” he adds.
The REP is funded by the Government but for major projects, Mr. Garvey explains that international lending agencies such as the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) provide financing.
“They funded a huge project for us from 1997 to 2002 where over 6,000 houses were done. We have always had international funding agencies coming on board with us to do the major projects, but we are usually funded by the Government,” he says.
Presently the REP is undertaking a 40-kilometre project.
“We are only 20 per cent complete now. We have just finished our procurement of the material and it has been delivered to the REP store. There are a number of areas that are going to benefit from this,” Mr. Garvey says. He adds that about 800 households across the country, excluding the parish of Kingston, will benefit when this project is completed.
The REP was issued a mandate, along with its activities in rural Jamaica, to execute the Urban Electricity Regularization Programme (UERP). Under this programme, houses in inner-city areas will be assisted in regularizing wiring in order to access electricity legally.

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