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MCCU supports EDSA to tackle illegal abstraction of electricity

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

The Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit (MCCU) has through the Sierra Leone Threshold Program funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States of America launched the Third-Party Grid Loss Verification project at the Atlantic Lumley Hotel in Freetown on Tuesday November 17, 2020.

The initiative will help the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) to curtail illegal abstraction of electricity by regularizing illegal customers and instances where customers cannot pay their bills, recommendations such as payment plans will be proffered to regularize the customer and minimize the need for punitive action.

The intervention by MCCU is part of their relentless strides to support government efforts in ensuring the necessary conditions for EDSA to achieve financial viability.

Being implemented by Arthur Energy Advisors and Urban Associates, The activity intended to provide information that will be used to strengthen the capacities of EDSA, the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission and the government in general to carry out inspection, detection and correction of commercial grid losses.

It will be implemented over a five month period and will cover an estimated 140,000 customers, including household customers, businesses, industrial and institutional customers and EDSA staff in the Western Area Rural and Urban areas.

During the launch, MCCU Chief Executive Officer, Ndeye Fatu Koroma said: “This project will be a pilot engagement for us to be able to get a better sense of where we have seen the highest losses on the system and how do we work collaboratively with EDSA to be able to address those issues going forward.”

According to her, they have ensured that their effort has not been done in isolation because they have worked closely with the Ministry of Energy and EDSA.

She described the initiative as a chance to build the capacity of EDSA to be able to continue working in order to improve their operations in the delivery of electricity services to the people of Freetown.

“The success of this work is to be able to collect data, information and build the capacity of EDSA to be to carry out verification work,” Mrs. Koroma emphasized.

Director General of EDSA, Joe Lahai said with the launch of the project, they are optimistic that at the end, they will be in a better position in terms of identifying and correcting what the sources of losses are in both technical and commercial.

Being the primary collectors of monies, the EDSA boss stated that if they are not able to get all the monies required, which will in-turn allow them to pay all their IDP providers and other suppliers, it will make it very difficult for them to operate.

“The sustainability of the energy sector is hinge on the financial capability of EDSA. In our current system, our losses are very high and when you combine both technical and commercial, we are about 45% to 50% which is very bad. We are losing about Le40billion a month and that makes it very difficult for us,” he said and added that they always go through the Ministry of Finance to get subsidy from government.

Mr. Lahai noted that the project will help them improve on their overall professional efficiency by translating it to more money and reduce the dependency on government subsidy.

In his keynote address, Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Sesay spoke about the significant challenges affecting the energy sector, citing the limited availability of reliable and affordable electricity, ageing and inadequate capacity of transmission and distribution networks and outdated utility policies and practices, among others.

“The purpose of this project is not to identify electricity theft for disconnection and punitive action but to encourage regularization of illegal connections and ensure supply against payment. Essentially, the action will introduce the idea of discipline and active enforcement of the law by EDSA,” he stated.

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