According to a new research report by the market research and strategy consulting firm, Global Market Insights, Inc, the Smart Grid Market will cross USD 70 Billion by 2024. In the recent years, smart grid market has earned substantial revenue due to the increasing awareness about the incredible benefits provided by these products. In addition, this vertical has also received quite some impetus on account of the rising requirement of power grids that can accommodate and support increasing numbers of electronic devices in each household. The importance of smart grids has been recently upheld by the city council of Sault Ste. Marie in Canada when a multi-million-dollar implementation of smart grid technology was cleared.


There are many reasons why people steal electricity but poverty is not one of them. Poverty may force someone to consider stealing electricity but the actual decision to steal is based on calculations as to the extent to which the perpetrator can escape detection and punishment.
There are tens of thousands of poor persons in Guyana who live in communities where electricity is available. These persons however do not steal electricity because they fear the consequences, both the legal and moral.
They fear that if detected they will be shamed and embarrassed and even subject to huge penalties including imprisonment. Those that steal are the ones who feel that they can escape detection, can avoid being punished or simply are prepared to face the consequences.
Against this background it may be tempting to believe that the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and the government are on the right track by instituting draconian legislation aimed at increasing the penalties for such theft. After all, the more severe the penalties, the less likely would persons to steal since if they are caught they can end up in big trouble including jail time.
GPL does not seem to have learnt from past experience. There were always on the books penalties, including jail time, which ought to have acted as a deterrent to electricity theft. Yet instead of reducing theft there has been an increase and for one main reason: those who steal are able to get away with it.
An increased penalty is therefore not the answer. And this is why the recent legislation passed by the government to increase the penalties for electricity theft is a step in the wrong direction.
What should have been passed were laws that would allow them ease in prosecution. Electricity theft is so widespread that it would be impossible for the GPL to bring to book all those who are engaged in this practice.
But more importantly is that the GPL itself has been unable to police its own network effectively and there have been allegations that certain corrupt staff members of the power company actually aid and abet in this process of electricity theft.
The solution is not to criminalize large numbers of consumers who are engaged in electricity theft. The solution cannot be increasing fines. If the enforcement mechanism is poor all that will happen is that these increase in fines will encourage greater corruption as the increase in traffic penalties have proven.
In fact these fines are so prohibitive now that it can spike an increase in corruption within the power company and this is not what both the government and the power company desires.
Even if a few individuals are prosecuted and fined heavily by the Courts, this is not likely to be a deterrent because of the slow pace of the judiciary and the uncertainty of a successful prosecution in the Courts.
The recently passed legislation is thus a retrograde step. Instead of increasing the penalties, the government should have allowed the GPL greater options under the law to recoup the amount diverted through electricity theft.
If consumers who steal electricity know that the GPL would have the power to levy on their television sets, their household appliances, their furniture and even their vehicles and property, they will think twice about stealing electricity because these are things they would not wish to lose.
This is the direction that the government ought to be moving. It may involve some serious revisions of the law and even the establishment of a quicker and more efficient judicial mechanism such as an electricity court. But in the end it will be worth it because so long as citizens stand to be legally dispossessed of their personal property because of electricity theft, so long as the GPL can come and lawfully seize their home appliances and vehicles, this is the most effective remedy against electricity theft.
Increasing fines will only increase corruption unless there is effective policing, and as we know the problem right now is too big to be effectively policed by the GPL alone.[]

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