The truly frightening scale of the costs of electricity theft and non-payment for electricity usage in South Africa, summarised in an industry journal, Energise, has resulted in significant media coverage.
The City of Cape Town's Electricity Department has a Revenue Protection Unit that is constantly on the trail of those who tamper with and bypass electricity meters and recovers about R10 million rand each year that would otherwise be lost to the City. In an article, "The impact of electricity theft and non-payment on the generation capacity crisis in South Africa" in the April edition of Energise, Managing Editor, Chris Yelland, estimates that: "the impact of electricity theft and non-payment in South Africa on the national electricity demand is about 3 600 MW, which is equivalent to the output of a major coal-fired power station, or about 10% of the current national demand of around 36 000 MW.
"Yet, in the last six months of the generation capacity crisis, I have not heard a single public word or pronouncement by the powers that be in central and local government, NERSA, EDI Holdings, Eskom and the municipal electricity distributors, about the theft and non-payment problem. It is as though this problem simply does not exist."
He goes on to add that the economic impact to the productive sector of this unserved energy must be about R200 billion per annum and, "if there was no loss of electricity to theft or non-payment, load shedding and load reductions would in fact not be required."
Neil Ballantyne, who heads the Revenue Protection Unit, says that the total system losses are currently running at 9,3%. "This is made up of technical and non-technical losses. The technical losses on a predominantly cabled network are in the order of 6% which means that the loss due to tampering and by-passing is in the order of 3,3%. In comparison with the figures quoted by Chris Yelland we are doing very well in combating tampering and bypassing." Ballantyne says that the team is recruiting more members and that these figures can be improved upon.
Officials of the Unit visit premises unannounced to carry out their functions. They carry Council identification and must be allowed access. The detection and rectification of tampering and bypassing meters and the recovery of the cost of previously unpaid for electricity consumption indirectly benefits all the City's electricity consumers. "The City has to pay Eskom for all electricity consumed. If we do not receive payment for the consumption that is "stolen" our electricity tariffs need to be increased to recover the cost of this "stolen" electricity and therefore every electricity user is affected," Ballantyne explained.
Councillor Clive Justus, Chairperson of the City's Utility Services Portfolio Committee, said: "The theft of public property cannot be tolerated nor condoned. To this end the Revenue Protection Unit is authorised to identify, monitor and act where and when theft occurs. I support the appointment of more members to the Unit to further reduce financial losses. The Copperheads under the leadership of Councillor Pieter Van Dalen is playing a significant supportive role in reacting to the theft of copper cable and other Council assets."
18 APRIL 2008
CITY OF CAPE TOWN
TEL: 021 400 3719
CLLR CLIVE JUSTUS
TEL: 021 534 5096 CELL: 083 628 4136
HEAD: REVENUE PROTECTION, ELECTRICITY SERVICES
TEL: 021 506 3802 CELL: 084 909 9308