The Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) is claiming that about 60 percent of its annual output is stolen by the people who make illegal connections to their homes and businesses.
According to LEC’s Chief Executive Officer, John Ashley, the company is incurring a loss of around $35 million annually due to power theft, illegal connections, bypassing meters, damaged meters, non-payment of bills, and misreading of meters for postpaid customers.
The state-owned utility claims that it requires every cent of the money lost to rebuild the country’s power sector and boost supply. So, it has reportedly launched a widespread crackdown on homes and businesses that have illegally connected to its grid.
Ashley has suggested that the government should introduce more stringent punishments to reduce electricity theft.
“We are in discussions with the Ministry of Justice and we are hoping to get some traction on those discussions, with the view to moving the theft of electricity from – not a misdemeanor – but to felony and perhaps classifying it as economy sabotage, because effectively that’s what’s happening,” Ashley told Reuters at the LEC headquarters in Monrovia, reported Africa News.
In order to do away with the unwanted losses, the corporation has also planned to move away from direct cash transactions of any kind. It plans to introduce a new program that will require customers to use bank transfers and mobile money for all transactions with LEC. Notably, LEC is already in discussions with the banks and mobile money operators to implement the program as early as possible in the new year.
It is estimated that the company’s current output of 126 MW (megawatts) can provide electricity to only 12 percent of Liberia’s 4.7 million people. Liberia’s overall demand for electricity is expected to climb to about 300 MW by 2030.[Chief Observer]