So ever since the Jamaica Public Service Co. Ltd. has been sounding off about its financial woes, a growing sense of dread has been overcoming me. The latest wail is that the company will be out of cash by August. Now I am not fretting for myself, for reasons which I will outline shortly. But I am thinking about the few businesses plodding along in this extremely hostile context that is Jamaica today. We already are burdened with the highest energy costs in the region, and if you layer uncertainty of supply atop burdensome expenses, well…you can see how this will end. Let’s go back to the JPS’s latest alarm: out of cash by August. That is a holler for attention at the very least, but it must be some sort of call to action too. What do they want? Are they setting the stage to justify a rate hike? It is a fact that electricity usage has declined… Is this an index of economic growth/decline? Not sure. But for sure, ordinary citizens have really had no choice.
We’ve had to become Electricity Nazis in our own homes, using energy efficient bulbs, patrolling for lights being on for no reason, forgoing use of the electric water heater, unplugging everything once we are out of the house and there are some like my household who are almost totally off the grid. Yup. Some years ago, H had the foresight to begin to phase in the use of solar energy. To be totally honest, it was the unreliability of service from the JPS that prompted this move. The feeders in this area are old an unreliable and post-hurricane conditions were absolutely unbearable. But even though we would have light with or without JPS, as I said, I couldn’t help but worry about industry and therefore the state of the overall economy…the broader context within which I live and make a living.
So I was talking with H tonight, rehashing the day’s events. And he told me a story that lifted my spirits and gave me hope to press on. He decided to use the services of an automobile AC technician along South Camp Road. He only saw the sign, it was conveniently located (for him) and he only needed re-gassing…nothing complex. So he turned in and saw a modified shipping container serving as a small admin and waiting area. There was a steady stream of traffic in and out, including taxi men and commercial trucks, including trucks belonging to a well known haulage company. He took comfort in that fact, and noted that the owner was the head technician, moving around briskly and quite business-like. But he had to wait. H hates to wait. But as he sat waiting he noticed that atop the modified container, sat 2 solar panels. Wow! H’s fine engineering mind sat up and started noting the technical details of this AC business set-up. What he figured out and later confirmed in conversation with Mr. AC was that the solar panels provided enough energy for Mr. AC to run his AC repair business.
This simple entrepreneur had done his sums and determined that his competitiveness hinged on his ability to minimize his energy costs. Hence his current independence from the unreliable supply characteristic of the JPS and his lower energy costs.
H remarked that he is seeing more and more windmills on residences in St. Elizabeth too. Think of the new Digicel building Downtown, Kingston. Red Stripe recently announced plans to invest in their own energy plant. I am hoping that as JPS and the Government of Jamaica continue to piss around and play games (WHERE IS THE ENERGY POLICY?) we the people will do the necessary and invest in alternative energy sources.
And don’t gripe about the cost. Plan. Start. Phase in the darned thing. Incremental improvement may be the way you have to do it. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! So many people are comfortable borrowing money to buy a car, a liability that depreciates with every revolution of the tires. Buy a small car for cash and invest in alternative energy instead, People! That is worthwhile debt.
So I have to believe that the entrepreneurial class will not roll over and die. I have to believe that we will find a way to survive and thrive despite this Ineptocracy. (in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) – a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.