Bulgaria seeks permanent solution to electricity theft issue

Photo: BGNES

The essence of electricity theft has changed significantly in recent years. The devices used to measure electricity consumption have advanced rapidly in technological aspect and now it is very difficult for the ordinary citizens to manipulate these devices. This suggests that electricity theft has turned into a lucrative business for some people. In this case we presume that some former employees of energy companies who have the necessary knowledge and competence, fall into this category, the Chairman of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission Ivan Ivanov said within the frameworks of the discussion on electricity theft. The main purpose of the event was to give voice to all points of view and collect proposals for urgent amendments to the Energy Act. Bulgaria’s Minister of Energy Temenuzhka Petkova, MPs from different political parties and representatives of the power distribution companies in Bulgaria-CEZ, Energo-Pro and EVN also attended the discussion.

The Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly Energy Committee Valentin Nikolov voiced readiness to discuss concrete proposals for legislative amendments, because the Bulgarian society now shows zero tolerance towards the thefts of electricity and facilities of the electricity grid.

Who are the people who steal electricity? According to the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, electricity stolen by people of the Roma community is now under 10% of the total electricity theft, and over 50% of the electricity is stolen by business organizations, hotels, factories, restaurants, etc, which consume significant amounts of electricity.

This was the second discussion on electricity theft. The previous discussion was held in 2016 when the state energy regulator was prohibited by the law to specify the sanctions period (including past periods) and the amount of sanctions. A series of changes were made since then which give hope that electricity thefts can be reduced to a minimum with the help of the state authorities. The Energy and Water Regulatory Commission is expected to curb electricity thefts, but the main function of this commission is to set rules for measuring the quantities of electricity and the rules for recalculating the used, but not measured electricity, Ivan Ivanov explained and added:

The most common violations are registered in two cases – changes made in the electrical circuit and illegal connection to the electricity grid. Recalculation in both cases is different. In the first case the deadline set by the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission for reimbursement of the money is 90 days. In the second case the regulator gives 180 days. The power distribution companies would avoid financial damages, if the paid sums vary between EUR 500 and EUR 5,000. We would like to assure you that the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission is not trying to downplay the problem related to electricity theft. We are looking for the right balance. That is why we are trying to impose fair and proportional sanctions that would prevent such actions to repeat in the future. The use of the technological capacity of the modern measuring tools, as well as the price paid for unlawful use for electricity, rather than sanctions only, is the only way to reduce electricity thefts permanently. The report of one of the power distribution companies clearly shows that electricity thefts from its grid decreased with over 30% as a result of the deterrent measures adopted by this company. Moreover, one of the power distribution companies installed 1 million remote electric meters. As a result attempts for electricity theft decreased significantly. These modern devices allow online surveillance and can intercept all attempts for electricity theft. When these devices signal about electricity theft, teams of the power distribution company and police teams react immediately and devise a written statement and most clients pay for their violations before the case is brought to court. This is the long-term solution of the problem related to electricity theft.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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