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  • By : Laarni S. Ilagan
  • Jan 30, 2024

Apprehension of Illegal Connection UP, Systems Loss DOWN in 2023

The apprehension of 283 individuals with electric meters violating the anti-pilferage law in 2023 helped improve collection efficiency and lower system loss of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO). The apprehension activities conducted by the Special Equipment and Metering Office (SEMO) personnel in 2023 resulted to a collection of P8.5 million unpaid arrears with surcharges, and value added tax (VAT). The P8.5 million back-billed amounts for 2023 showed a P5 million increase compared to the P3 million of 2022.

These are mostly from disconnected accounts owners apprehended due to illegally reconnecting their disconnected meters and subsequently paid the penalties and arrears, according to SEMO supervisor Engr. Mario Calatan. Compared to 2022’s 171 total apprehension, 2023’s 283 total apprehended accounts showed BENECO’s SEMO apprehension team intensified their activities. The impact of these activities contributed to the lowering of the SL measured at 9.69% in 2022 to only 7.57% in 2023. Lesser (single-digit) System Loss will translate to less system loss charge that consumers of electricity will pay.

BENECO’s Network Services Department (NSD) and Legal Office are handling cases of illegal connection that were apprehended and received demand letters. They are given 3-days to settle upon receipt of the demand letter. “Failure to settle or at least to come to BENECO and express their willingness to pay, will signal the next step which is filing of a case against them,” Atty. Mylene Manogan explained.

System loss (SL) charge or stolen electricity is the third highest bill component that all consumers of electricity pay under the unbundled rates monthly, following Generation System Charge and the Transmission System Charge. SL represents the recovery of the cost of power lost due to Technical Losses (maintenance of distribution system) and Non-technical Losses (due to pilferage or stolen electricity.)

Collection efficiency (CE) measures payments collected versus billed accounts. Both SL and CE are among the key indicators of a well-managed and efficient distribution utility. A DU with low collection efficiency will experience difficulty in meeting its financial obligations to its power supplier and other service providers whose services needs to be paid

Majority of the violators opted to settle with the co-op to avoid escalation of their case to the courts, after receipt of BENECO’s demand letter following apprehension. Direct connection, illegal transfer of kilowatt hour meter, illegal reconnection, and illegal installation of KWH meter were apprehensions by the SEMO anti-pilferage apprehension team for 2023.

The bulk of apprehended accounts that opted to settle came from disconnected meters that were endorsed for inspection to the SEMO team. Apprehended owners of illegally reconnected meters pay a penalty of minimum P2500 that may increase depending on the load and its corresponding value added tax (VAT).

Persons convicted of violating Republic Act 7832 Anti-Pilferage of Electricity and Theft of Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Act of 1994 face 6 years to 12 years imprisonment or a fine of P10 to 20 thousand, and not “probationable.”