BUSINESS

Power theft on the rise, costing PPC and consumers millions

CHRYSSA LIAGGOU

TAGS: Energy

A bar owner at Kolonaki, central Athens, had his electricity cut off due to high unpaid bills. He was approached by an electrician who offered to reconnect the bar every Friday evening, so the bar could open for the weekend, and disconnect it again every Monday, to avoid detection – all for 800 euros a week.

The bar owner accepted the proposal, but after a while decided to report him to police. The electrician told authorities he had an accomplice who was an employee at the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (DEDDIE).

DEDDIE told Kathimerini the alleged accomplice is not a company employee, adding, however, that he may work for a contractor of the grid operator. While power thefts are a growing phenomenon that DEDDIE is supposed to prevent, the operator admits that it suspects contractors are involved.

In 2016, after targeted checks, DEDDIE inspectors identified 11,528 instances of power theft, while some 5,000 cases were added in the first half of this year. DEDDIE automatically sues the users, but only a few cases go to court as most bill dodgers opt to pay their dues instead. In the last two years court cases of theft have increased considerably: Hearings in Attica and Thessaloniki rose from 324 in 2015 to 1,410 in 2016, and 2,971 in the first eight months of 2017.

Total revenue losses amount to 250 million euros, according to Public Power Corporation (PPC) data, with the stolen electricity coming to some 1.52 million megawatt-hours (MWh).

Notably, the cost of electricity thefts initially burdens PPC, but after some two years – following data checks and the approval of the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) – it is passed on to consumers through power bills.

Many PPC officials share the view that DEDDIE has not exhausted all available means of identifying violators and containing power theft, so the company is expected to increase pressure on its subsidiary in this direction.

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