Electricity is the lifeblood of economic development. Utilities across the world are challenged with the detrimental effects of electricity theft. In order for utilities to effectively combat electricity theft, authorities need actionable information that can guide investigations. A comprehensive and spatially enabled electricity demand management software system can help combat theft by putting the right information in the right hands.

ELECTRICITY - THE LIFEBLOOD OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Electricity is the lifeblood of economic growth and development. It channels warmth to homes, powers production, drives electronic connectivity and makes technological innovation a possibility.

Utilities across the world face the challenge of optimising resources and maintaining infrastructure in order to supply electricity in an effective and sustainable manner. According to the World Bank 1 reliable and low cost electricity supply is an essential input for economic activity, attracting productive investment. On the other side, high electricity costs and shortages deter investment, hampering competitiveness and challenging poverty reduction efforts.

One key area of concern in developing and developed countries alike is the threat that electricity theft poses to the effective management of the electricity sector. With approximate annual losses of around $6 billion in the US, £299 million in the UK and R4,8 billion in South Africa, electricity has become the third most stolen commodity in the world, after credit card information and vehicles2.

WHAT IS ELECTRICITY THEFT?


In the same way that non-revenue water loss 3 can be divided into real losses and apparent losses, the loss of electricity can be divided into technical and non-technical losses.

Technical losses include power dissipation in electricity system components while non-technical losses are caused by actions external to the power system. Non-technical losses consist mainly of electricity theft, delinquency, inadequate metering and billing, and errors in accounting and record keeping 1 .

ELECTRICITY THEFT INCLUDES:

Illegal connections

Illegal electrification schemes

Meter tampering and bypassing

The buying and selling of illegal prepaid vouchers


According to South Africa’s electricity public utility, ESKOM, the mistake is to associate electricity theft with poor communities. While desperate people think of innovative ways to bypass paying for electricity, ESKOM’s energy loss in the business, commerce and agricultural sectors amounts to double that of residential 4. Ultimately electricity theft is not a victimless crime. From loss of life due to electrocution, to the damage it has on economic development, electricity theft directly threatens the lives and livelihoods of municipal citizens.

7 DEADLY SINS OF ELECTRICITY THEFT

Increased tariffs

Higher price of food, transport and other consumer commodities

No incentive to be electricity efficient

Bodily harm or loss of life

Negative impact on investor confidence

Negative impact on economic development

Challenges effective electricity demand management (EDM)

CAN INFORMATION MANAGEMENT HELP?


IMQS’s Electricity Demand Management Information System (EDMIS) is geared towards helping utilities overcome key challenges faced with demand management, with a special focus on data and information. It does so by centralising and making fundamental information required to calculate electricity demand from sources such as monthly electricity meter readings and stand related information accessible.

The IMQS EDMIS system makes available valuable data sources that can be turned into actionable intelligence to crack down on electricity theft:

Electricity consumption data

Anomalies / Exceptions

Spatial Data

Billing / Admin Data


The sudden increase/decrease of consumption or the exposure of anomalies in space and time can help to direct investigations into electricity theft. This offers utilities the means to more effectively deal with electricity theft by informing investigations with real actionable geographic information.

By centralising and consolidating all data on electricity use and consumption, EDMIS makes the lives of key decision makers and operations personnel easier. It enables them to access the right actionable information at the right time in order to make speedy and informed decisions. This does not only have an impact on the broader goal of electricity demand management, but can help put thieves behind bars as well. For more info on electricity theft, check out our infographic here.