JPS investing in ‘self healing’ grid
Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) will be spending $15 billion this year on capital improvement projects, investments that are meant to reduce downtime and system losses, says President & CEO Emanuel DaRosa.
The projects include the automation of power distribution and added capacity at the Hunts Bay plant in Kingston, the latter, of which DaRosa indicated to the Financial Gleaner being one of the big-ticket items on the company's 2018 agenda.
The automation project costing US$10 million is to be rolled out over multiple years. It includes the upgrading of infrastructure and the gradual roll-out of technology to create a "self-healing" grid, said DaRosa, following the company's annual general meeting on Friday.
It includes the replacement of aged infrastructure, including old power poles this year and installation of 350 trip savers, "so the circuit will re-close automatically without the tripping of the fuse," he said, and consequently, lessen the downtown usually associated with a blown fuse.
Under automation, the power company is also looking at new ways of addressing theft, with plans to install a meter "on every single transformer that we own", said DaRosa.
"They will perform an energy balance for all the smart meters receiving power from that transmitter, so we can very quickly look at how much power is coming out of our transformer versus how much power is being consumed by the actual paying customers. Any variation will be identified as theft," he said.
The Hunts Bay works is scheduled for completion in mid-2019. The US$22 million project includes 24.5MW of power storage, which is intended to combat the intermittency associated with renewable power supplies.
"We are installing storage to improve our reliability ... we are looking to increase the amount of renewables on our system, but it brings a certain amount of intermittency," the JPS president said.
"Right now, our older generation is not able to respond as quickly to the immediate reduction of energy from renewable sources," DaRosa explained. "It will be one of the largest in
the world, featuring a hybrid system utilising flywheels and batteries," he said.
Last year, JPS reported flat profits of US$24 million from revenue of US$837 million. DaRosa says the company now expects revenue to underperform this level in 2018.
"We were actually originally expecting a slight increase [in revenues] by about one per cent, but the reality is that with the very cool weather we experienced in the earlier part of this year, sales were below projection. We will finish the year at below one to two per cent of last year because of the low sales for that period," he said.
The company has applied to the Office of Utilities Regulation for a rate increase, for which the review is under way.
"We have requested an increase, which is running below inflation of two to three per cent. We are trying to keep electricity prices at or below inflation. That's our objective," he said.