Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Introduction

Speeches Shim

The following excerpts showcase the technical knowledge exchange with Rio LIGHT, a leading Brazilian utility company, and JPS in early November 2015 in Kingston as part of this pilot project.

Dane McLean of JSIF (pictured here) presented his organization’s role in the Community Renewal Program to the residents of Majes
Dane McLean of JSIF (pictured here) presented his organization’s role in the Community Renewal Program to the residents of Majesty Gardens and other partners supporting the program.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day One 

At a community gathering in Majesty Gardens, seven government agencies and NGOs presented their programs to an audience of roughly fifty community members. The programs were all part of the Community Renewal Program, a multi-faceted initiative financed by the Government of Jamaica and international development partners to improve public services for residents in 100 of the most vulnerable and volatile communities across the island. Organizations in attendance included the National Housing Trust, Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), National Water Commission, Community Development Council, Social Development Corporation, and Jamaica Public Service Co. Ltd. (JPS)

The residents of the Majesty Gardens community in Kingston, Jamaica utilize an improvised distribution system, comprised of home
The residents of the Majesty Gardens community in Kingston, Jamaica utilize an improvised distribution system, comprised of homemade distribution poles and electrical lines tagged with colored strips to indicate the owner of the lines.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day One

JPS is working to curb non-technical losses (electricity lost for reasons aside from equipment efficiencies) in their distribution system. In particular, electricity theft creates complex social issues for JPS throughout Jamaica. While illegal, electricity theft is very difficult to prevent, and is not easily or quickly reversed. Pictured here are a number of informal electrical “throw up” connections, used to steal power from the low voltage distribution system. These illegal connections drive up prices for those using the distribution system legally, adversely affect the reliability of power for nearby communities, and are dangerous for the end-users and community members in the vicinity.

Fernanda Mayrink, pictured here, gave a vibrant presentation on LIGHT’s experience in engaging low income communities in regular
Fernanda Mayrink, pictured here, gave a vibrant presentation on LIGHT’s experience in engaging low income communities in regularization, energy efficiency, and community engagement efforts.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Two

One of the featured speakers that the USAID SRUC program funded for a knowledge exchange was Fernanda Mayrink, Community Energy Efficiency Manger for Rio LIGHT, an electric utility serving Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The USAID team invited Ms. Mayrink to speak to Jamaican counterparts on LIGHT’s popular and effective community engagement efforts in Rio de Janeiro. Ms. Mayrink shared her invaluable experiences ranging from innovative billing programs to an internationally renowned recycling for bill credit program. LIGHT designed a program to give credit on electrical bills for collecting recyclables that had been discarded as trash in the Rio communities and delivering it to municipal collection sites. Active discussions on how to best translate these lessons from the Brazilian experience to the Jamaican context were held throughout the session. Ms. Mayrink’s wealth of experience was instrumental in sparking new ideas for the Community Renewal Program as well as reinforcing the fundamentals of an active community engagement program.

Connie Smyser and Sophia Peters, who helped lead the knowledge exchange on behalf of the SRUC Program, discuss the details of ho
Connie Smyser and Sophia Peters, who helped lead the knowledge exchange on behalf of the SRUC Program, discuss the details of how the readyboard solution could be implemented in Majesty Garden with the JPS team.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Two

After the presentations and working sessions, the SRUC team and Ms. Mayrink toured communities in Kingston where work is being conducted under the Community Renewal Program. Majesty Gardens (pictured) will be piloting a methodology new to Jamaica for informal dwelling electrification under the SRUC program in partnership with JPS and JSIF. The Readyboard Electrification Demonstration (RED) pilot project will provide legal electricity access to Jamaican citizens in this community who would otherwise be unable to have a legal connection due to non-traditional building materials and informal construction. Additionally, the pilot project will measure the impact of this legal electricity access on customer behavior, income, and consumption.

Prepaid meters, similar to the one pictured here, provide customers the ability to pay for electricity upfront and prevents cust
Prepaid meters, similar to the one pictured here, provide customers the ability to pay for electricity upfront and prevents customers from using electricity that does not fit within their budget.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Two

In its communities targeted for community renewal, JPS has installed prepaid metering technology for customers. This metering system allows users to monitor their household expenditures on electricity, so they can match it more effectively to their income. With prepayment, customers can adjust their consumption with monthly budgets and avoid late payment charges that may occur in the traditional billing model.  A smiley face seen on the prepaid meter’s consumer interface allows customers to easily understand how much electricity remains since their last credit purchase.

Non-technical losses are driven by a combination of social, economic, and technical issues in the distribution company’s service
Non-technical losses are driven by a combination of social, economic, and technical issues in the distribution company’s service territory. In the case of Majesty Garden, the construction of the houses prevents them from being legally wired.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Two

Like many other utilities, JPS has had difficulty providing power to informal dwellings as the homes cannot legally be wired for electricity, due to Jamaican building code.  Currently, there is no permissible, safe electricity option for these households. Many residents engage in illegal connections and dangerous wiring alternatives to access electricity for their homes. The SRUC program will be working in Majesty Gardens (pictured here) to provide legal electricity through the Readyboard Electrification Demonstration (RED) pilot project as part of the government’s broader Community Renewal Program.

As a Community Renewal Program partner, JSIF is working in Majesty Garden to conduct social marketing initiatives, a youth education recreation program, skills training, energy and conservation management training and LED bulb swap.

In an effort to be more accessible to the community, JPS has also established Service Centers in several communities, including Majesty Gardens. These centers are manned by Community Facilitators from the respective communities. The service centers are used for the purposes of handling simple bill queries, contract signing, and general information about the utility’s provision of electricity.

The USAID SRUC program is one of JPS’ major partners, with its focus now being specifically on the Readyboard pilot. USAID is responsible for the design of the readyboard program, conducting community user surveys and subsequent data analysis to determine readyboard impact on electricity use, and the cost for the readyboard materials, which will be assembled locally.

Pictured here, Marilyn Mcdonald-Watson presented the general community engagement strategy and portfolio of projects across the
Pictured here, Marilyn Mcdonald-Watson presented the general community engagement strategy and portfolio of projects across the Community Renewal Program at JPS.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Three

Marilyn Mcdonald-Watson, Program Manager of Community Renewal and Customer Solutions at JPS, provided details on JPS’ community engagement efforts as well as commentary on JPS’ role in the Community Renewal Program. Ms. Mcdonald-Watson presented a variety of priorities during her presentation at the knowledge exchange, allowing Ms. Mayrink to provide additional context from areas in Rio de Janeiro facing similar difficulties. This helped shed light on where similar programs have been successful. The similarities, as well as the differences, between the Brazilian and Jamaican environments facilitated engaging conversation for attendees of the knowledge exchange working session. 

Charmaine Muirhead presented the central tenets of PIOJ’s approach to community engagement which includes building trust, workin
Charmaine Muirhead presented the central tenets of PIOJ’s approach to community engagement which includes building trust, working directly with the residents, and utilizing empirical data.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Three

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) provided a historical view of community engagement and renewal in Jamaica.  Key among the topics discussed between JPS, JSIF, PIOJ, and the SRUC program was the importance of integration and collaboration among a variety of government partners in community engagements. The Community Renewal Program is bringing together a number of Jamaican government organizations and NGOs to engage customers in low income communities around Kingston, Jamaica.

Hon. Julian J. Robinson is Member of Parliament for South Eastern St. Andrew, and Deputy General Secretary of the People's Natio
Hon. Julian J. Robinson is Member of Parliament for South Eastern St. Andrew, and Deputy General Secretary of the People's National Party discusses recent prepaid metering programming and community engagement in his district.

Jamaican Knowledge Exchange: Day Three

Julian Robinson, Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM) and Member of Parliament for Saint Andrew Southeastern, attended the knowledge exchange session on Wednesday to hear the presentations and discussion on the subject of community engagement. Minister Robinson continued to show support for the Community Renewal Program in his constituency, McGregor Garden, which recently received the prepayment meters featured above.

As the knowledge exchange drew to close, all attendees reflected on adaptations to the Readyboard program, specifically around communications and marketing strategies for presenting the program to the residents. With USAID, future work will involve conducting a survey with the Majesty Garden’s community residents to determine attitudes toward electricity use, procurement of the materials for assembling readyboards, demand side management trainings, and preparation of marketing materials informed by the knowledge exchange. 

Last updated: August 04, 2021

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