We heard on the radio today that there are issues with the supply of electricity in Jamaica. More specifically, the main electricity supplier on the island has started blacking out whole neighborhoods, cutting off power because too many people are stealing it. The JPS power company (the sole distributor of electricity on the island) estimates that they lost 15% of their total output to these power-siphoners, many of whom were taught how to do it as children. Since it's proven impossible for the power company to adequately police the problem, they've taken to just cutting off whole areas of the island, leaving them with no electricity.
On the other side of the coin, many of these people may feel that they have little choice but to do what they're doing. The typical electricity bill in Jamaica is about $75 per person per month. That doesn't sound like a whole lot (we pay $140-$200 a month for a house here in hot steamy Florida), but that's actually about one-third of the average monthly income for some. So electricity is so expensive in Jamaica, it could take up 33% of the average income. That would be like an average middle-class person here in the States who makes $40,000 a year, they'd be paying $1100 a month just for their power bill.
In fairness, JPS will readily point out that it isn't just the poor that steal power; people have been doing it for so long that it spans every class and type of customer and even bleeds into the business community. Apparently, there are even entire generations of people on the island who have never ever paid for electricity at all.
Why is electricity so expensive? Some would point out to the monopoly of having just one provider for the whole island. But it's also because the electricity is generated almost solely from burning diesel fuel and heavy fuel oil. Not having a diverse range of fuels to use (like LPG or even nuclear) no doubt contributes to Jamaica having the most expensive electricity rates in the Caribbean.
God bless the USA.
image credit: Go-Jamaica
This post was published on April 5, 2013 and was updated on April 9, 2014.