The reasons behind power theft in India

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India estimates, India’s power companies lose revenue on about a fifth of the electricity they supply, or about USD 10.2 billion annually, due to problems including theft, meter tampering, billing issues and leakage due to faulty equipment. The World Bank estimated that in 2011 power sector debt reached INR 3.5 trillion (USD 77 billion), that is 5 pc of India’s GDP. Of all the power generated in the country, around one fourth is either stolen or lost in transmission.

According to official figures, transmission and distribution losses at the national level in India were about 22.77 pc in 2014-15 and 21.81 pc in 2015-16. Some states incurred higher losses than the national average in FY15-16 and these include Madhya Pradesh (28.61 pc), Rajasthan (29.13 pc), Chhattisgarh (30.78 pc), Haryana (31.61 pc), Odisha (39.15 pc), Bihar (49.29 pc) and Jammu and Kashmir (50.06 pc).

The power system losses in India can be classified into two categories- technical and non-technical. According to a study report, technical losses are losses caused by actions internal to the power system and consist mainly of power dissipation in electrical system components such as transmission lines, power transformers, measurement systems, etc. On the other hand, non-technical losses (NTL) are caused by actions external to the power system, or are caused by loads and conditions that the technical losses calculation failed to take into account. These losses are essentially monetary or commercial losses.

There are mainly two forms of power theft in India. One is meter fraud (manipulating the electricity usage data) and the other is unmetered usage (where power is enjoyed for free). Political interference too is sometimes responsible for it. It is seen that in many parts of the country, power theft increases during elections. Since farmers form the majority of the country’s electorate, political leaders often promise them free or subsidised electricity in order to get votes. Also, most of the overhead electrical wires in India are still not insulated and that invites illegal hook-ups.[Courtesy:Media India Group]

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