Jamaica electricity grid: Smart meters part of US$40m upgrade

Jamaica electricity grid modernisation smart meters
Jamaica electricity grid: the utility has said it expects deploying residential smart meters, will help to reduce losses due to electricity theft

A West Indies utility plans to spend US$40 million over the next five years to improve the Jamaica electricity grid including deploying residential smart meters.

Local utility Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) announced this week it will divest the money over a five-year period to deploy smart grid technology in a bid to reduce losses.

Gary Barrow, senior vice-president, of Energy Delivery, Technology and Innovation at JPS, said the company will spend US$6 million to US$8 million per year on technology upgrades including smart meters.

Mr Barrow told newspaper The Jamaica Gleaner that suspected electricity theft, which cost the utility US$18.4 million in 2014, has prompted the grid modernisation effort.

JPS kicked off a smart meter pilot in 2012, known as the Smart Grid Interface, and now 10% of its residential customers have advanced meters in their homes equivalent to 60,000 smart meters.

Barrow said over the past 24 months, the electricity distributor had quietly acquired and tested new equipment and conducted “systems shakedowns” ahead of large-scale rollouts.

Revenue protection

JPS confirmed to the newspaper that 65% of its revenue comes from customers with smart meters as all large customers – about 5,000 business – are on smart meters. It is also seeking to deploy meters to medium-sized businesses and other large power users.

JPS takes consumption readings at 15 minute intervals for commercial and industrial users using a commercial automated metering infrastructure system.

Barrow told another newspaper Wednesday Business: “In some areas where we had as much as 50 per cent theft of electricity, just putting in these meters and taking some other actions, we were able to bring that down to 2-3%.”

The distributor now plans to introduce technology to allow smart meter customers to manage energy consumption through remote control of smart home devices.

Jamaica electricity grid – theft detection

JPS has also tested and is installing meters on a secondary line of distribution transformers to detect energy theft at the micro level.

Barrow said: “Before, we knew that an entire feeder was suffering from theft, but now, we are actually able to take it down to transformer level.

“So if only 25 customers are on that transformer and we know that … we are delivering more energy than what we have billed for, now we can pin-point with great granularity where the theft is happening.”