Before pulling out for personal reasons, I was involved in a consulting job in Albania. The goal was to reduce electricity theft. One of our recommendations was kind of obvious: to reduce theft, you need to make it hard for people to steal. You need to get out and yank illegal connections and keep yanking them.
Would that it were so easy. The tricky part is twofold: (1) Getting the money to pay the people who need to check and yank; and (2) getting the political will to cut people’s electricity.
But now it seems as though Jamaica’s utility is doing just that!
Jamaica’s sole electricity provider says crews have pulled down nearly 10,000 illegal connections to the power grid and police have arrested over 300 people for theft so far this year. In a Sunday statement, the Jamaica Public Service Co. says it is “relentlessly pursuing” electricity thieves in neighborhoods where a tangle of illegal wires can often be seen tapping into power lines. In one town in Jamaica’s St. Catherine parish, residents fled their homes last week to avoid arrest as power crews removed about 850 illegal connections.
Now, to be fair, total losses in Jamaica are just 26%, way less than in Albania. But still, the experiment bears watching.