Power theft such as vandalism and illegal electricity connections, together with non-payment of bills are costing Umeme billions of dollars in revenue loss.In East Africa, Ugandan power distributor, Umeme, has stated that these factors not only effect its financial performance but also its service to customers, as the outcome result in high electricity tariffs.The electricity provider noted that the Bugisu sub-region, which is serviced by the Umeme Mbale regional office, remains the leading area in power theft among other regions in the country, The Monitor reported.Umeme regional manager for North Eastern Uganda, Trevor Kigenyi, said: “51% of the losses we incur are from the Bugisu sub-region, which has a high number of power thefts and vandalism. This consequently cripples our expansion and profitability.”

 

Power theft contributes to loss of lives

According to media, Kigenyi said the power distributor loses Shs36 billion ($10.6 million) in power theft from the sub-region alone each year, noting that more than 50 people die annually due to attempts to connect power illegally.In the Manafwa and Bududa districts, losses amount to Shs5.5 billion ($1.6 million), Sironko Shs4.5 billion ($1.3 million), Bulambuli Shs4.1 billion ($1.2 million) and Mbale Shs3.6 billion ($1 million), media reported.Furthermore, it is reported that the region experiences some of the lowest payment collections, with arrears totalling Shs 5 billion ($1.4 million) annually.

Umeme appeals to parliament

In June, it was recorded that power losses attributed to technical and commercial dropped to 19.1%, from 19.2% over the same period in 2015, media reported.However Umeme’s executive director, Sam Zimbe, stated that the company has reduced losses from 38% to 19%, equivalent of $500 million saved in terms of losses.Zimbe added: “Our target is to reduce the losses to 14% by 2018."He highlighted  during his address to members of the Bugisu parliamentary caucus, that they need to work closely with Umeme by sensitising their people and strengthening legislation in order to combat power theft and vandalism.“We have done a lot to refurbish the network in the Mbale area,” Zimbe stressed.[ESI AFRICA]

 

Britain's energy suppliers have begun sharing intelligence on households with suspiciously low bills in a new hunt for thieves who tap into electricity and gas networks.It is estimated that energy worth £440m is stolen from the network every year by criminals tampering with energy meters and supplies to artificially reduce their recorded usage, offences that add £20 to the average household bill.By combining their data, 58 energy suppliers and distributors including all the “big six” providers, plan to detect when a house or business is using significantly less power than normal.The scheme, the Theft Risk Assessment Service, is the first of its kind in the world and is being powered by Experian, the data company, and ElectraLink, which provides energy market information.More than 150,000 cases of energy theft are investigated every year, but as well as the financial cost, is also linked to criminal activity such as cannabis farming.Rigging meters and diverting electricity supplies from other properties also risks electric shocks and fires. When energy is diverted by tampering with power lines it can also lead to local outages.

At present, major energy companies have attempted to combat thieves by relying on their own records, but the information is often not comprehensive enough and smaller providers do not have enough data to analyse. By pooling their data, they will have a better idea of unusual activity.Experian’s software will combine the data of all the major suppliers and dozens of smaller ones to identify when usage is significantly lower than average than peers, with households profiled by their number of occupants, postcode and financial status to determine an average level of consumption. Commercial properties will be profiled by their type of business.Ian Terblanche, Experian’s director of telecoms and utilities, said the threshold at which premises would be identified as abnormal varied, but that it was “a long way out from the baseline”, meaning thrifty consumers and regular holidaymakers would not be marked. He said that with only 150,000 reported cases out of 42m supplied properties, a premise would have to be significantly below the average to be identified as suspicious.

Experian analyses many months’ worth of data before highlighting a potential thief, so it must identify a steady pattern of unusual consumption.Mr Terblanche said the data was anonymised and that only a score related to how a household or business differed from the baseline on energy use would be shared with companies.Experian has been trialling the scheme since March and there has already been an increase in the number of cases being flagged, with the first leads being discovered in May.When a case is escalated to an energy provider, they check it against their own records and follow it up by contacting the customer or the police. While the cost of energy theft has been estimated at £440m, it is believed the true figure is much bigger since many incidents are not reported or discovered.More than 1,500 people in England and Wales were prosecuted for electricity and gas theft in 2014-15, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.[The Telegraph]

 

Power discom employees, who went to check for electricity theft in the house of a Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) worker in Rajiv Nagar of old Gurgaon on Thursday, were assaulted and had to run for their lives.The officials went to a police post for help, but the brother of local MLA Umesh Aggarwal reached the spot and allegedly threatened officials and asked them “to be within their limits”.The police booked two persons on charges of electricity theft and disrupting government service.House owner Ishwar Singh ‘Fauji’ was arrested but the police did not initiate any action against MLA Umesh Aggarwal’s brother Hitesh who allegedly threatened the employees.

Police said junior engineer Mahender Singh of the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) along with his staff went on Thursday morning to check electricity theft in Ishwar’s three-storey house in Rajiv Nagar.“Ishwar has been drawing electricity directly from the electric pole by fixing two wires. He installed sub-meters for his tenants but there was no main meter. We clicked pictures and videographed the spot,” Mahender said from civil hospital where he is being treated for his injuries.He alleged that Ishwar asked him to talk to some politician over the phone and he refused. “When I began documenting the theft,Ishwar snatched the document, tore it, assaulted us and chased us out of the house,” Mahender said. Foreman Vijay Kumar was also thrashed.

The discom employees called the police control room and reached the police chowki in Sector 14.Hitesh also reached the police chowki and allegedly threatened the employees. “He (Hitesh) asked MLA’s personal assistant to note down names of the discom employees and threatened that he will not let them work in Gurgaon,” Vijay alleged.The employees gave a written complaint against electricity theft, assault on staff and intimidation by Hitesh. The police acted on the incidence of electricity theft and assault but left out the complaint against Hitesh, the officials claimed.“Police are shielding the MLA’s brother who threatened us in front of policemen. Discom employees are afraid to act in electricity theft cases as people often attack them and go scot free,” said Mukesh Bhayana, circle secretary of Haryana State Electricity Board Workers’ Union.

The union members staged a sit-in at the Circle office on Mehrauli road.Inspector Bijender Singh, SHO, Civil Lines police station, said no case was made out against others as they had come just in support of Ishwar.Defending his brother, MLA Aggarwal said it was the electricity union employees who assaulted Ishwar at the police post. “We support the discom staff acting against electricity theft but we will not tolerate their goondagardi (hooliganism). They attacked our party worker (Ishwar) at the police post after which my brother intervened,” Aggarwal said.Inspector Singh said no assault took place at the police post and it was only “an altercation”.DHBVN Superintending engineer (operations) Sanjeev Chopra said the staff would keep working with dedication and will not be bow to such threats.[Hindustan Times]