The Jamaica Public Service (JPS), Jamaica’s sole distributor of the treasured electrical power needed to run almost everything in our lives, has been in the news quite a bit of late. And no wonder. Business owners like Anna Chin, the proprietor of the popular Jo Jo’s Farm Market on Waterloo Road in Kingston, are finding it extremely difficult to keep their businesses afloat due to crippling electricity costs. In late August, Ms. Chin announced that she had to close down the market, open for the past 10 years, due to the debilitating cost of electricity. For instance, Chin revealed that her electricity bill for the month of July was J$667,641.17. Wah! How does a business survive with bills like these despite doing everything possible to cut down the costs? You can read more about businesses and the JPS in this August 14, 2011 Jamaica Observer article: “Lights out! – Massive light bills force closure of popular business.”
Businesses aren’t the only ones feeling the JPS-pinch. Many homeowners are clueless as to the reasons for their high electricity bills. Some are taking JPS to court, others are battering on the doors of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to deal with this and to date an audit will be done on JPS’ meter replacement system.
But others, like the woman who actually had the gall to reveal her nearly J$2 million electricity bill on TVJ News, Saturday, September 17, should think twice before opening their mouths. My immediate reaction to the news headline was: “A wah dis dear Lord?! A how JPS come to dat now?” However, as the news report progressed it seems the lady is being charged retroactively and currently. Why? Cause she a tief light! After revealing to the reporter that she in fact does not have a meter so she doesn’t know why she is being charged, the reporter asks her how she is receiving her light to run the many electrical appliances she was proud to show him and the camera crew (fridge, washing machine, television set, etc, etc. and such delights!). Her response: “Fram di pole.” Story come to bump!
So JPS being in the news so often nowadays got me thinking about the introduction of electricity to Jamaica and what the cost of this precious resource was like back in the day. To begin I went to the JPS’ website, to their company history page, and found out the following:
JPS is the sole distributor of electricity in Jamaica. We are the proud inheritor of a tradition that dates back to 1892, when Jamaica first received electricity. This placed Jamaica in the enviable position of being one of the first in the world to have electricity, and only thirteen years after American scientist Thomas Edison had invented the electric lamp. In that year, the first electricity service in the island was supplied by the Jamaica Electric Light Company from a plant at Gold Street, in Kingston.
Electricity was therefore introduced to Jamaica in 1892, 13 years after Thomas Edison invented the first successful electric lamp. Nicely done Jamaica!
So what was the cost of electricity back then? There’s no way we can compare then and now but I was curious to know what obtained back then.
To answer this question I went to my favourite online historical archive (trumpet roll…) the Gleaner Archives! I love reading the old newspapers and getting a kick out of the newspaper ads from way back when.
Anyway, I digress.
I began my search in the 1892 editions of the Gleaner, which was then called the Daily Gleaner and De Cordova’s Advertising Sheet. With my trusty keyword typed into the Gleaner Archives’ search engine – Jamaica Electric Light Company – I came across the Wednesday, October 5, 1892 edition of the Daily Gleaner for what looked like a report of “An extraordinary meeting of the shareholders of the Jamaica Electric Light and Power Company, Limited” held on Monday, October 3.
This isn’t exactly what I’m looking for. Doing another search, using the search term Jamaica Electric Light and Power Company, I came across the following advertisement in the Friday, January 1, 1892 edition of the Gleaner for the “rates and charges in connection with the supply of the Electric Light”:
You might be interested in visiting the historical highlights section of the JPS’ website that provides some interesting factoids on the company’s development.
Until next time…