Competition in the Electricity Generation section of Jamaica’s Energy Sector is coming. Despite the words of JPS Co (Jamaica Power Service Company) CFO (Chief Financial Officer) Dan Theoc, the basic framework as laid out by the previous Minister of Energy and Mining Clive Mullings already makes competition possible for Canadian debutante Solamon Energy Corp as pointed in Solamon Energy Corporation to build Caribbean’s Largest Solar Plant – Jamaica to get a Green Energy Boost.
Ditto too for Green RG, the crazy American with a love and desire for a slice of the Latin American Alternative Energy market as per my analysis in Green RG in Jamaica to make Solar Power Gear.
This as Power Wheeling and Net Billing means that Electricity generated by Alternative Energy Gear at one point in JPS Co still exclusive Power Distribution Grid can be recovered at another point in the island in much the same way water that fall in a river in the hills is the same water taken from the river downstream via a Water pump. Same Electricity, no matter which way you spin it!
The increase on the cap for Energy that AEPPV (Alternative Energy Private Power Provider) can supply to the Grid to 15MW is just to make doing business economical for such FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) and Local Investors with cash to splash for the long haul.
And curiously none of that breaks the current ten (10) year exclusive license which was extended in August 2011AD for another ten (10) years that the JPS Co has and which Dan Theoc in a Press Conference with the Media stated was their “clear regulatory framework”. Contract law at its finest, as we STILL do not have full Energy Sector Liberalization as yet, which is the current Minister of energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell’s desire!
But how is this going to be possible?
After all, JPS Co would have to have a VERY precise means of making sure. The answer lies in the upgrade of Analog Electric Meters to Digital Meters that was announced in October 2011AD.
This issue, typical of those that usually bedevil Jamaicans and then dies with a whimper, came to light when many began to complain of the unfair Billing practices of JPS Co,Jamaica’s SOLE PUC (Power Utility Company). The blame, many believed lay with JPS Co’s ongoing upgrade of Analog Electric Meters to Digital Meters and issue I will deal with in another article on Digital Electric Meters.
As many Jamaicans are aware, JPS Co’s monopoly on Electricity Distribution extends to the Analog Electric Meters, which only their trained Technicians can install or remove. At that time Winsome Callum, JPS Co Corporate Communications Manager went on the defensive in a Press Release on Sunday October 9th 2011AD in the Jamaica Gleaner.
This at a time when JPS Co was installing approximately six thousand (6,000) Digital Electric Meters replacing the older Analog Electric Meters, whose electromechanical method of measuring electricity meant JPS Co was robbing itself.
Another seventeen thousand (17,000) is slated to replace some time in 2012AD with these easier to read LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) Digital Electric Meters. This as the JPS Co has now choice, as Winsome Callum further points out, quote “In fact, the industry move has led to not only a reduced supply of such meters (old analog meters), but also reduced supply in replacement parts for servicing electromechanical meters. Inevitably therefore, the local electricity utility has to keep in step with this global move”.
The World is moving away from Analog Electric Meters and going Digital, soJamaicareally is left no choice! An irony, as the JPS Co complained that one of its major sources of loss was in the very Electricity Distribution Grid, specifically due to theft by householders in Residential Communities. Thus the obvious logic was that the more accurate Digital Electric Meters, which work on the same principle of an Induction Coil Clamp Multimeter often used by Electricians, would detect lower levels of power usage in households more accurately.
The words of James Samuels, BSJ (Bureau of Standards Jamaica) were then confirmation of this train of though, quote: “Yes, there is a marginal difference. The Digital Meters are marginally more accurate than the electromechanical design”.
The Press Release by JPS Co Corporate Communications Manager Winsome Callum add more weight to the words of the BSJ employee, quote: “These meters start measuring power use at a much lower level than the electromechanical meters and have a higher accuracy (0.5 per cent [0.5%] vs one [1%] per cent over the life of the meter) so a modest increase in the normal consumption is normal in some instances”.
Great for JPS Co, but not for regular customer who are to eventually receive these more highly accurate meters and the associated higher Bills! This especially as the average Jamaicans household’s electricity bill is 65% Air Conditioning and Cooling (think of your refrigerator…it’s always on!!).
A statistic stated by Dr. Michael Taylor, Climatologist and Head of the Department of Physics, Pure and Applied Sciences, University of the West Indies at the Energy Conference 2011 on Monday September 19th 2011AD that affect Telecoms Provider as well oweing to the fact that their equipment requires constant Cooling as noted in Digicel Jamaica’s Alternative Energy Future – Increased Electricity Bills and Energy Sector Opportunities collide.
But it is this very high level of accuracy that will make Net Billing and Power Wheeling possible. The clue to JPS Co’s real intention lies again in Winsome Callum Press Release in which she says, quote :“There are four  broad types of meter installations being conducted at this time. The meter types all have different features, they are all digital (solid state no moving parts with LCD panels showing the recorded consumption) but they should not all be confused and are not all ‘smart’ meters”.
This reference to the Digital Electric Meters as not being “all ‘smart’ meters” means that some of them are indeed smart meters i.e. Electric Meters that can be read remotely. Instead of the Power Meter Reader having to come to your house, JPS Co can in the future remotely read your Digital Power Meter using either:
- PLC (Power Line Carrier) a secure Communication standard used to communicate with some JPS Co sub-stations over Power Lines
- Via the Wireless Data Networks provided by the Telecom Providers using either 2G Services such as GPRS (Global Packer Radio System) or EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution) or 3G Services such as HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access as in the case of Duke Energy in the US of A
That last bit is the suspected business model of Solarmon Energy Corp as noted in Solamon Energy Corporation to build Caribbean’s Largest Solar Plant – Jamaica to get a Green Energy Boost, an issue deserving its own article.
As for the four (4) types of installation, the obvious implications based on the Press Release is that some of the Digital Electric Meters will have the remote Billing Facility and some will continue to be manually read. As there are two (2) general types of Electric Meter installation in Jamaica, that being Residential and Commercial, it thus stands to reason that the four (4) types of Digital Electric Meters that were alluded to in the Press Release are:
- Residential Customer Digital Electric Meters with Remote Access enabled
- Residential Customer Digital Electric Meters with Remote Access disabled
- Business Customer Digital Electric Meters with Remote Access enabled
- Business Customer Digital Electric Meters with Remote Access disabled
Interestingly enough, aside from facilitating Net Billing and Power Wheeling, the Digital Electric Meter upgrade allows JPS Co in the future to do the following:
- Pay-as-You-Go Electricity – effectively Pre-Paid electricity in just the same way you top up your mobile phone
- Prepaid Electricity – pay for electricity in one (1) day, seven (7) day, fourteen (14) day or fortnightly or thirty (30) day usage again akin to Data Plans on offer from Telecoms Providers
- Flat Rate Postpaid Electricity in which Residential and Commercial customer pay one (1) flat monthly payment based your Class of Electricity Usage
- Power Audits services for Residential and Commercial Customers
- Facilitating JPS Co going into Residential Solar PUC as in the case of Google in California in partnership with Clean Power Finance
- MPU (Mobile Power Units) facilities similar to that of Telecom Providers or even Broadcasters. This would enable JPS Co to provide Diesel Generators, Solar Power or Wind Turbine Mobile sited in a vehicle to power large events and be billed accurately
In summary, the Digital Electric Meter Upgrade:
- Facilitates Net Metering and Power wheeling which would enable individuals and Companies such as Solamon Energy Corp to enterJamaica
- Paves the way for JPS Co to modernize its Electricity Distribution Grid and more accurately gauge Power theft and Loss on their Electricity Distribution Grid
- Enables the eventual COMPLETE Energy Sector Liberalization that Energy and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell so fondly desires
Thus the obvious becomes clear: JPS Co Analog Meter upgrade heralds Remote Billing Revolution in the guise of a response to a global push towards Digital smartmeters.