In India, electricity is not a commodity that is taken for granted by consumers. Power is so valuable to Indian citizens that inspectors from electricity companies have been brutally attacked so that they would not have to pay power bills. In addition to these attacks, some have even tampered with meters to lower readings just to dodge payments. The problem is so prevalent in India that Bloomberg estimates an annual loss of $17 billion in revenue due to electricity theft alone.
In 2009, agents of the Central Industrial Security force stopped accompanying inspectors to raids, causing the theft of electricity to be simplified. Over the past five years, this problem has grown exponentially. According to Ratul Puri, the chairman of Hindustran Powerprojects, 80% of power loss is due to theft alone. Combined with low billing rates for citizens, electric companies are losing more money with each year.
These electricity distributors are required by the government to sell power to customers under cost. Consequently, these distributors are then obligated to borrow large sums of money in order to pay power-generation companies. As of April 30, energy providers that sell to consumers in the Delhi state owed 141 rupees, or $2.4 billion to state-run power generators. By shifting a portion of debt to regional governments, the current government hopes to lessen payment terms for each region. Ultimately, the goal is to have a minimum of one light bulb running per household by the year 2019.
A 2012 target was set and missed by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of providing electricity to all Indian households. Currently, about 300 million Indians still do not have power. The new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pledging to boost energy output to help alleviate the problem. Additionally, his government hopes to make a transition to renewable energy, particularly in remote areas, so that energy theft does not have as much of an impact on revenues. Solar energy, for example, will cost more as it is produced by builders of sizeable plants and will provide an extra energy source. Theft levels have also decreased with Modi’s introduction of more efficient meters, improvement of policing, and farming subsidy cuts.
Other countries also experience power losses, but none quite as significant as the 25% loss of India due to poor wiring and theft. In Australia, only 5% of power is lost annually as well as 6% for China and the U.S. However, with the new policies introduced by Modi it is likely that this figure will decrease. Last month, the BSES began raiding homes and factories to discover cases of theft, and these raids will continue for the next three months.