Almost a fifth of Joburg's electricity lost through theft, tampering

As Joburg residents suffer load shedding, it’s come to light that a full 28.17% of the electricity Johannesburg’s City Power purchased in the financial year to June 2014 was lost (2013: 26%) - the biggest chunk through meter tampering and theft.

The losses have soared since then. From June to December 28.8% was lost, City Power told Moneyweb.

Energy Measurement Consulting technical director, Eric Bott, says the 3.5 million MWh of electricity lost in that year would have been enough to supply 600 000 middle class households for a year.

The monetary value of these losses amounts to R2.3 billion in 2013/14, comprising R1.5 billion as a result of non-technical losses (theft and meter tampering) and R742 million as a result of technical losses, according to City Power’s Annual Report.

These values are calculated at cost. City Power says in its annual report if the electricity lost due to theft and meter tampering was sold, the city could have earned R3 billion. This is double the potential value of such losses in the previous financial year.

Of the 28.17% in the 2014 financial year, 9% was due to technical losses, which is not much higher than the norm of 8% for big cities, says Ratings Afrika analyst, Leon Claassen.

But non-technical losses came to 19.17 %. This is a huge issue, he says.

City Power says non-technical losses are a result of among other things theft, the by-passing of meters, illegal decallibration of meters, damaged meters, faulty voltage and current transformers, billing errors and customers without meters.

The entity says it is trying to curb non-technical losses by installing automated metering systems, replacing faulty meters, the automation of systems to acquire new customers and change meters, an anonymous hotline to report theft, vandalism and tampering and random and targeted audits, followed by the removal of illegal connections and normalising supply.

City Power told Moneyweb it has set up a task team to address the problem and improve revenue collection, recover lost revenue and achieve accurate billing for large power users and domestic customers.

"The project has a six-month lifespan and we expect to see the outcomes over the next two years," the entity told Moneyweb.

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