Both the Ministry of Energy and the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) have agreed that more will be done to address all customers’ concerns about high electricity bills, they have received.
The agreement was reached following a presentation JPS made to the government, outlining several factors that would or could have contributed to higher electricity bills during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a statement released today, July 2, Energy Minister, Fayval Williams said “these are unprecedented times, and the people of Jamaica have been seeing increases in their bills that they do not understand. As all Jamaicans regain their footing from the devastating impact of COVID-19, it will be important for JPS to listen to customers, proactively reach out and understand specific needs.”
JPS president and chief executive officer, Michel Gantois, admitted that there was a need to improve customer engagement as he said “our relationship with our customers and partners has deteriorated over the past few months. This is not what we would have wanted, and we recognise that we need to be more proactive in handling their concerns. We commit to improve the matters that are of concern to our customers. We are taking immediate steps to ensure that customers better understand their bills, have information to manage their usage, and have greater access to our representatives.”
He also added that JPS is “working assiduously to provide more tools and resources to serve our customers and to empower them to manage their energy consumption. This is only the beginning – no stone will be left unturned in pursuing options for adding greater value to our customers at this time and in the future.”
The Energy Minister, also noted that to facilitate full transparency, JPS will continue to give its full support to the audit being undertaken by the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) which is expected to be completed by mid-August, which will then made available to the public.
The partly owner power company is also expected to conduct an examination of its culture, practices, and processes to ensure a strategic focus on what matters to customers such as affordability and reliability of its service and proactive communication given the essential nature of electricity to all.
Understanding this, the ministry has agreed to a set of measures that, with Government support, will see JPS making a greater effort to theses eight points:
1. Work relentlessly to further improve JPS’s operational efficiency to help make electricity more affordable for all individuals, while still reliable.
2. In conjunction with the OUR, review and simplify the bill layout to ensure customers are more empowered by the information provided, for example, separate the reporting on customers’ bill of Independent Power Producer (IPP) capacity charge from fuel charge. These items are a straight pass-through to customers and IPPs have a greater impact on electricity generation now than in the past.
3. Improve adherence to the OUR’s requirement to automatically investigate bills that increase or decrease by 30% or more on a month-on-month basis and to communicate with the impacted customers, so they better understand the circumstances.
4. Proactively enhance communication, specifically around initiatives implemented in light of COVID-19, to include the provision of additional contact channels and flexible payment arrangements for vulnerable customers.
5. Accelerate the initiatives, which are already in place, to reduce the number of estimated bills and keep customers updated with the progress.
6. Empower customers with practical conservation information, including information on energy usage per appliance, to guide purchasing decisions and influence behaviour change.
7. Through the introduction of a mobile application, allow customers who sign up to access Smart Meter data (where available) to better manage their energy usage. While that mobile application is being developed, JPS will use other methods such as text messages to alert customers to significant variations in their monthly usage patterns.
8. While adhering to required operational standards, ensure the limited impact of maintenance outages on homes, schools, and businesses in carrying out preparations for the hurricane season.