How much electricity is stolen in South Africa

 ·8 Dec 2014

Eskom has revealed that as much as 7% of the country’s electricity is stolen via illegal connections, something the state power utility can no longer afford.

This comes amid a power crisis and rolling blackouts as Eskom struggles to keep the lights on.

Andrew Etzinger who is the spokesperson Eskom recently told Talk Radio 702 that the company has its own private police force “that goes around every day removing hundreds of illegal connections. A couple of days later and those connections are back.”

He noted that Eskom has 300,000 kilometres of power line throughout the country. He said municipalities would have as much as six times more than that. “We just cannot police it all the time.”

He stressed that the problem was not only home owners, but business owners too.

He said that as much as 7% of the country’s electricity was stolen via illegal connections. “We desperately need that revenue…we cannot afford it anymore,” Etzinger said.

Financial woes

Eskom is in discussions with the Department of Public Enterprises and Treasury to secure funding to afford diesel to supply its gas turbines.

Etzinger said that in November alone, the group burnt through R1.3 billion in diesel which would have been more were it not for logistical issues of getting that amount of diesel into its power stations.

This, he said, was against a total annual budget of R2 billion. He said that Eskom could not, alone, fit a diesel bill of approaching R2 billion per month.

He said that capacity shortage required Eskom to run open cycle gas turbines, fueled by diesel, for up to fourteen hours a day, from between 2-3 hours.

“We need to get out of this base load schedule as soon as possible,” he told Talk 702.

He said that Eskom has received an additional R1.5 billion in funding recently, giving the power utility ‘some breathing space’ to work out a more sustainable financial model from the middle of January.

He emphasized that the gas turbines are not designed to run base load capacity, which will run out of capacity, whether funding is available, or not.

He said that the first unit of Medupi will be ramped up to full capacity from about April 2015. However, he cautioned that two units at Medupi as well as one unit at Kusile would need to be operational.

“We are at least two years away from continuous relief,” Etzinger said.

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