One of Brazil's largest actions to fight energy fraud and theft has recovered 206 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in the first half of this year. The operation led by Neoenergia in its distributors´ concession areas, Coelba, Celpe, Cosern and Elektro covers the states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, São Paulo and Mato Grosso do Sul. In the first six months of 2019, 239,000 technical inspections were carried out, resulting in the identification of 35,000 irregularities, in addition to the regularization of 34,000 clandestine customers. Considering the energy volume recovered, approximately R$31 million in taxes (ICMS and PIS/Cofins) were returned to the public coffers. The tax collection targets social investments in education, health and improving the population's quality of life.
To illustrate the size of the amount recovered in the period, the quantity of energy would be enough to supply a city like Natal, Potiguar capital (Potiguar is the Brazilian name for the Rio Grande do Norte state), for about two months. The record numbers obtained in the first half reflect operations developed to fight illegal connections, from the simplest to the most complex, which undermine the energy supply and pose a risk to society. In six months, the actions resulted in the arrest or conduct of 99 people to testify to police authorities.
Neoenergia´s CEO Mario Ruiz-Tagle stresses that energy recovery actions are permanent. "We will continue, in the second half, with the execution of our plan to fight theft and energy recovery actions. In addition to inspections, we are executing an aggressive meter change plan to ensure proper consumption metering and a grid technology investment plan to prevent electricity theft in more complex areas”, says the executive.
Acting preventively, Neoenergia distributors are supported by state-of-the-art technologies and intelligence teams that map and inspect suspicious points. Another important support comes from the population, who can also contribute by reporting anonymously through the concessionaire's service channels. When irregularities are found, the cases are reported and investigated by the competent public authorities.
"Coordinated actions go beyond the mere punitive idea for the offenders. This is a transformation of culture, bringing the understanding that energy theft represents harm for the whole society ", comments Neoenergia Commercial Director Luiz Flávio.
Energy fraud and theft are social distortions that impact all social classes as they undermine supply, endanger life and affect a portion of the energy bill. This conduct is considered a crime, according to article 155 of the Brazilian Penal Code, with punishment that may range, as the case may be, from one to eight years of imprisonment, in addition to a fine.