It is becoming more important, in the changing energy market, for utilities to ensure that as much as possible of the energy they produce reaches end users, and that as much as possible of the supply is billed and paid for by the users. Losses, either in the transmission and distribution systems, or through theft or non-payment, all add up to impact on the end figure.
The issue of theft is a global one, with losses often being higher in developing countries. A recent World Bank report revealed losses that range from as high as 48% in the Central African Republic, with a weighted average for the region (not including South Africa) of 23%. In the US, losses are estimated by the EIA to be between 5-6%. Losses by Ofgem in the UK are slightly higher at almost 8%. The loss by theft, worldwide, is estimated to be US$85b annually.
It is essential to detect fraud, but the bigger challenge is that the techniques used are becoming more sophisticated. The issue of fraud detection is like that of cybersecurity, with the difference that in the case of fraud the instance is likely to be limited to a single customer account, whereas a cyber breach is likely to be more widespread. The risk of fraud is one that is not going to go away and utilities need to be constantly on the alert.
For more information on dealing with electricity losses, see full article.