Electricity-theft-meter-tampering-1-photo-by-Eskom
Meter tampering in informal settlements is done to avoid the payment of electricity. Pic credit: Eskom

In South Africa, electricity theft is on a steady incline due to the high rate of unemployment and poverty, resulting in state-owned power utility Eskom losing billions every year.

MyBroadband.com reported that South African energy expert Chris Yelland said that an estimated 32% of all electricity delivered by City Power Johannesburg is lost to theft and non-payment.

Yelland said: “If these non-technical losses could be eliminated, peak demand would be reduced enough to completely eliminate the need for load shedding.”

Reporting theft

Earlier this year, fin24 reported that Eskom loses an estimated ZAR2 billion ($163 million) annually due to electricity theft.

The power company has recently called for the top 20 defaulting municipalities to repay their debts which totalled an estimated ZAR4.6 billion ($408 million).

Since the announcement was made in April, 17 municipalities have entered into payment agreements with the utility.

According to the City of Tshwane, electricity theft and meter tampering cost the metro ZAR416 million ($34 million) in the 2013/14 financial year. This was an 83% increase compared to the previous year, MyBroadband reported.

Combating electricity theft

In 2006, the Operation Khanyisa campaign was established under Eskom’s Energy Losses Management Programme to combat the country’s energy loses.

According to the campaign, it is close to reaching ZAR1 billion ($82 million) in recovery of revenue and prevention of further energy losses.

MyBroadband.com reported that Maboe Maphaka, a senior manager at Eskom, said that the use of new technology, application of the law, and community mobilisation worked to curb electricity theft.

Maphaka said: “Operation Khanyisa has helped with the recovery of approximately ZAR400 million [$33 million] in revenue for Eskom and the protection of a further ZAR500 million [$41 million] worth of energy from loss.”