South Africa is facing a severe electricity shortage, and Eskom may start targeting areas of high electricity theft and non-payment during load shedding to alleviate the power shortfall.
Eskom’s current shedding schedules have been created on an equitable basis to ensure all customers are treated fairly. This may change.
“Targeting areas of high electricity theft and non-payment, as part of our load shedding criterion, is an option that is being investigated for potential implementation in future as we review the schedules,” said Eskom.
“This idea is on the cards, but still needs detailed evaluations to be carried out before it can be implemented or rejected.”
South Africa’s electricity crisis
A report by the Institute of Race Relations said South Africa needs an additional 18,000MW within five years to meet demand.
According to the report, Eskom needs build the equivalent to four more Kusile power stations by 2020 to meet the country’s electricity needs.
While there are no quick fixes to the power shortage, eliminating electricity theft and non-paying customers can alleviate the problem.
Energy expert Chris Yelland said that non-technical losses – electricity theft and non-payment – amount to around 7% of electricity generated in South Africa.
Yelland said the elimination of electricity theft and non-payment would avoid the need for most load shedding.
He said within City Power Johannesburg, about 32% of electricity delivered is lost to theft and non-payment.
He added that more than 80% of the electricity supplied by Eskom to the residents and businesses of Soweto is either stolen or remains unpaid.
Eskom has said every kWh saved or not consumed goes a long way in mitigating the risk of load shedding.
“However, it is not entirely correct to say if we were to eliminate electricity theft, then we would avoid most load shedding.” said Eskom.
Eskom’s fight against illegal connections
Eskom said it is fighting illegal connections, but the battle is not easily won. “Every time we find illegal connections we remove them,” the company said.
However, the problem with illegal connections in some areas is that they get reinstalled immediately after being removed.
Eskom said there is a continuous battle between the utility and the residents in these areas, and sometimes it is forced to call the police to assist.
It added that some communities block the utility from removing the illegal connections.
“Similarly, where we find customers tampering with their meters, these are disconnected and only reconnected after a reconnection fee is paid,” said Eskom.
Examples of electricity theft in South Africa
“Illegal connections and meter tampering do not only rob Eskom’s potential revenue, it is also a serious safety hazard, endangers the community, and is a major cause of power outages because of network overloading,” said Eskom.
The following photos provide a few examples of electricity theft in South Africa.