Illegal connections and electricity sales cost Eskom R15 million a day

Eskom lost R5.6 billion to illegal connections and other activities during the 2022/23 financial year, with electricity losses amounting to 13,396GWh.

This works out to roughly 37GWh or R15 million lost per day. The power utility said the figure of 13,396GWh also includes meter tampering, illegal electricity sales or vending, illegal network construction, illicit meter installations and material theft.

MyBroadband asked Eskom for an update on the cost of illegal connections and it provided feedback similar to our earlier reporting.

“It is complex to ringfence the illegal connections revenue as their connections to Eskom infrastructure do not have metering for consumption measurement,” said Eskom.

“However, the overall energy theft for the 2022-23 Financial Year non-technical losses is 13,396GWh and is equivalent to R5,607,441,692.”

“This energy theft figure is inclusive of other significant contributors such as meter tampering, illegal electricity sales or vending, illegal network construction, illicit meter installations and material theft,” it added.

The power utility said it continuously conducts audits to identify and remove illegal connections across the country. However, the situation is worsening.

“The illegal electricity connections are worsening due to the informal settlements mushrooming, and in most cases, these end up connecting themselves illegally,” it said.

The power utility previously told MyBroadband that 28% of power failures it responded to between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023 were caused by theft, vandalism, and illegal connections.

“The associated cost in responding to these unplanned outages is in excess of R200 million,” Eskom added.

The power utility said it also has to spend millions to normalise areas with illegal connections, with the total spend reaching R227.8 million (incl. VAT) during the 2022/23 financial year.

Eskom’s spending to normalise areas with illegal connections has been less in the current financial year, which runs from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.

“In 2023/24, Eskom spent R65.9 million (incl. VAT) to date, normalising areas with illegal connections,” it said.

Illegal connections extend beyond just their cost to Eskom. In June 2023, the power utility revealed that illegal connections add up to two stages to load-shedding.

This is according to Mashangu Xivambu, senior manager for maintenance and operations at Eskom, who added that illegal connections add unforeseen electricity demand, increasing the complexity of managing the grid.

They also risk overloading electricity infrastructure, resulting in network faults outside of load-shedding outages.

Mashangu Xivambu, senior manager for maintenance and operations at Eskom

“Customers will be off because we have network faults generated by these illegal connections. The connections are not properly done, not protected, and as a result, the network trips,” said Xivambu.

He added that at least two stages of load-shedding could be avoided if Eskom could tackle the illegal connections in Gauteng alone.

However, Xivambu said that when it identifies and disconnects illegal customers, they reconnect illegally once Eskom technicians have left.

“Unfortunately, it is a repeated cycle. We remove it today, and the next day, they reinstall it,” he said.

In October 2023, reports revealed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) and several other law enforcement agencies were planning an “attack” on illegal connections in the country.

The teams focused on those illegally installing electricity connections and copper cable thieves.

“It is a wide spectrum with anybody from informal settlements, businesses and housing estates being involved. This week’s raids were a message to these people,” SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Ahtlenda Mathe said at the time.

“If we can break this down, we will save two stages of load-shedding. We are hard at work profiling these entities.”

Mathe added that she expected arrests to come “soon”.

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Illegal connections and electricity sales cost Eskom R15 million a day