Electricity theft in South Africa is out of control. Eskom is losing billions each year to this crime, and many people are getting electrocuted because of unsafe wires in areas where this theft takes place.
The elimination of non-technical electricity losses in South Africa – electricity theft and non-payment – would avoid the need for most load shedding. This gives some idea of the scale of the problem.
Chris Yelland, electricity expert and director of EE Publishers, said about 32% of all electricity delivered by City Power Johannesburg is lost to theft and non-payment.
“If these non-technical losses could be eliminated, peak demand would be reduced enough to completely eliminate the need for load shedding,” said Yelland.
Another report which illustrates the magnitude of the problem comes from the City of Tshwane, where electricity theft and meter tampering cost the metro R416 million in the 2013/14 financial year. This was an 83% increase compared to the previous year.
A recent Daily Sun report also highlighted the dangers of electricity theft after seven people were electrocuted in the Airport Valley squatter camp near Port Elizabeth.
This follows the death of Princess Ntuli, who was electrocuted by an illegal connection in January 2015 while she was walking barefoot in Intshawini, near Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal.
Apart from the obvious dangers, illegal connections also put the grid under undue pressure, resulting in outages due to overload.
The following photos show some examples of wires on the ground due to electricity theft.
Fighting electricity theft
While it is not easy to fight this crime, there are projects which aim to battle the scourge of electricity theft.
The Operation Khanyisa campaign, established under Eskom’s Energy Losses Management Programme, said that it is approaching the R1 billion mark in recovery of revenue and prevention of further energy losses.
Maboe Maphaka, a senior manager at Eskom, said the use of new technology, application of the law, and community mobilisation worked to curb electricity theft.
“Operation Khanyisa has helped with the recovery of approximately R400 million in revenue for Eskom and the protection of a further R500 million worth of energy from loss,” said Maphaka.
City Power said in August 2014 it is continuing the fight against people using illegal electricity connections.
It started to install prepaid meters in vandal-proof boxes to avoid user interference and tampering, and urged residents to report illegal electricity connections.
Eskom is also looking to take the fight to areas of high electricity theft and non-payment by targeting these neighbourhoods with load shedding.
The following images show electricity meter tampering which is used to steal electricity.
Images of electricity theft
The following photos show real-world examples of electricity theft in South Africa. This usually occurs in informal settlements.
Electricity theft is recognisable by the absence of control boxes (especially on poles), which are used to measure electricity usage.