PPC losing millions due to power theft

Corporate and household consumers tamper with or disconnect electricity meters to avoid paying their bills By Chryssa Liaggou

The phenomenon of electricity theft has grown out of control due to the economic crisis and the inability of many to pay their bills.

While before the crisis power theft was only seen in certain downgraded areas such as Roma settlements, it has now spread across the country and into expensive areas too, including the northern suburbs of Athens.

Officials at the Hellenic Electrical Energy Distribution Network Operator (DEDDIE) estimate that the turnover from electricity theft at businesses alone has quadrupled within just one year, climbing from 10 million euros in 2011 to 40 million in 2012.

The methods employed to steal power vary although authorities believe that in many cases electricians are paid to carry out the illicit connection. Public Power Corporation’s data on its lost income have been compiled from checks on corporate supplies, as there are no inspectors available to conduct random checks on household meters.

“Unfortunately [the illegal] connections are conducted in such a way that cannot be noticed by inspectors who check the meters once every four months,” a DEDDIE official told Kathimerini. “We have information about con artists who have made electricity theft their profession, but this information is not sufficient for us to catch them.”

Meters are disconnected or tampered with in most cases, allowing consumers to avoid paying the full amount to the company for their power consumption. PPC officials say that only electricians have the ability to carry out such interventions. DEDDIE is set to start sealing some 7.5 million power meters within the next 12 months, which would clearly indicate signs of any tampering.

Meanwhile PPC yesterday launched its second tender in a month seeking developers to build large-scale solar parks. The utility’s renewables unit (PPC Renewables) is awaiting bids for two 15-megawatt photovoltaic projects in Kozani, western Macedonia, by March 26, it said in a regulatory filing. The budget for the engineering, procurement and construction contract is 39 million euros, not including valued-added tax.