Umeme wants more fines for power thieves
Posted Friday, January 11 2013 at 02:00
Tightening. The power distributor says the current charges do not act as a deterrent to power thieves.
The penalty for domestic power theft should be increased from Shs295,000 to Sh350,000, power distributor Umeme has appealed.
Umeme has also proposed to the regulator, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) that those who steal electricity for commercial use pay Shs700,000 instead of the present Shs590,000.
Umeme said the current penalties are not sufficient to deter for power thieves. Umeme distributes 97 per cent of the electricity generated in Uganda.
Mr Henry Rugamba, the head of communication, yesterday said “commercial losses are the biggest component [of distribution losses]”.
“As long as we have power theft, then there is a problem. It is one thing to be criticised for power losses, it is another to have punitive laws,” he said.
He said they have reduced the total distribution losses (commercial as well as technical losses) from 27 per cent (2011) to 26 per cent (2012).
ERA had set a target of 25.5 per cent (2012). Umeme has, however, reduced distribution losses from 38 per cent when it took over the concession in 2005 to the present level.
Umeme has been working with the police to arrest people suspected to be either vandalising power infrastructure or illegally connecting themselves to the power grid.
Mr Neil Pinto, a UK-based consultant on energy, said a strong judicial approach would address commercial losses.
“That requires government support towards the prosecution of people who are stealing electricity. Without that sort of leader within the Ugandan economy, then addressing these losses is going to be very difficult,” Mr Pinto said.
In neighbouring Tanzania, a crackdown in September by Tanzania Electric Supply Company led to the recovery of $2m (Shs5.4b) lost to power thieves.