The City of Tshwane loses electricity worth about R150 million annually through illegal connections and meter tampering.
According to City of Tshwane spokeswoman Lebogang Matji, while illegal connections are most prevalent in informal settlements, they are not confined to these areas.
Matji said metro police and the electricity division officials were apprehending people on a weekly basis for illegal connections, and imposing spot fines.
“From time to time there are electrocutions here and there, especially where there are dangerous wires near where children play,” Matji said. The city’s electricity division officials monitored illegal connections and disconnected them where they were discovered.
South Africa loses about R4.4 billion a year due to electricity theft, with Eskom losing about R2bn, the balance being lost by municipalities.
According to Eskom, power theft is on the increase, and the utility has attributed this to harsh economic conditions and the high electricity tariffs. Eskom said it is losing electricity through meter tampering and illegal connections on its installations across the country. It is also incurring losses through the illegal vending of prepaid electricity.
The utility said power theft ranged from illegal connections by household users and farmers to meter tampering by both small users and big users such as industries and mines.
“Where tampering or illegal connection is detected the customer is disconnected and will only be reconnected after a tamper fee and reconnection fee is paid. The tamper fee is increased for customers who are found to have tampered with their meter more than once,” said the Eskom media desk.
It said it aimed to audit 33 percent of all large power users annually and 20 percent of all others each year. It was facing resistance in some communities as it tried to remove illegal connections.
Eskom said there was also a need to reduce technical energy losses. These are losses which occur when electrical energy is transferred from one point to another. “The medium through which electrical energy is transferred imposes a resistance to the flow, and some of the energy is dissipated as heat.”
A significant reduction in sales to high-voltage customers has also resulted in distribution energy losses.
Meanwhile, at least 70 000 indigent families get free electricity in Tshwane through the government’s national electricity basic services support tariff which aims to bring relief to low-income households and maximise the benefits of electrification by supplying 50kWh of free electricity a month to qualifying customers.
Eskom provides free electricity direct to indigent customers. The terms and conditions under which the service is provided and paid for is set out in a service level agreement between Eskom and the municipality. National government finances this programme in which an allocation is provided to municipalities through the local government equitable share programme.
Eskom thus provides free basic electricity in its supply areas and this is recoverable from municipalities at a standard tariff.
Eskom’s initiatives to fight power losses continue to bear fruit. These include the energy losses programme and Operation Khanyisa, which have shown some positive impact on the losses.
Communities have rallied around the call for action made by Operation Khanyisa to report any form of electricity theft. From inception to date, over 6 200 tip-offs have been received and many arrests made.
Illegal activities can be reported to the Eskom contact centre 0860 037 566.