Theft derails Ethiopia’s electrification projects

The Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) says that robbery has become a high trend hindering its national electrification projects. In the ended budget year alone, 90 tons of tower materials have been stolen from the Ethio Kenya high tension line.
The enterprise that has a mandate to carry out massive generation projects, construct and administer over 66 KV transmission lines and distribution stations, bulk energy sales, and electric export, disclosed that despite carrying out massive expansion and rehabilitation works, theft has become a major thorn in the flesh to its operation.
Moges Mekonnen, Public Relation Head at EEP, said that the behavior has been growing through time, while legal measures taken do not compare to the damage incurred.
“In the ended budget year alone, transitional line towers that estimate to be over 190 tons have been stolen in different corners of the country, which affects the service that EEP provides to the public,” he said, adding, “Because of theft, power interruptions have occurred which in turn affects the community in different areas.”
In two major incidents in November and December 2021 alone, 90 tons of parts of the tower, tower members and other materials have been stolen from the Ethio Kenya line, “in another round of incidents, additional 8 tons theft have transpired on the same line,” Moges said.
The robbery has been undertaken in a well organizer manner and the bandits are using tools like grinders.
The other major theft occurred through the TPLF conflict times.
He said that the aggression taken by TPLF has been one of the major challenges on the ended budget year.
“Our infrastructure has been massively stolen by the aggression which took place at the beginning of last budget year besides the huge damages,” he told Capital.
In the incident, over 100 tons have been stolen on the 400 KV system of Bahir Dar-Kombolcha-Woldeya.
“In the system there are two lots; sub stations and transmission line. The substation lots have three sub stations including Woldya and Kombolcha to which both of them have been stolen, while on the Bahir Dar-Kombolcha transmission line that stretches 295 km with 640 towers and on the Kombolcha-Woldeya 87 km line that have 191 electric towers have also been affected by robbery and damages,” he explained.
The other 230 KV 15 km line that connects the Kombolcha Industry Zone and the line that links the old substation with the new one at Woldeya have also been affected by robbery through the aggressors.
The 100 ton theft however does not include the purposeful damage which occurred due to the aggression.
To rehabilitate the theft and tower foundation in general, USD 105 million is needed at this area alone, which is not inclusive of other additional costs according to the Public Relation Head.
He underlined that the two areas are highly affected but the problem is also seen in other parts of the country like Mojo, Azezo-Chilga project, and Welayta on small scale levels.
The Power claimed that law enforcement bodies and region administrations are not taking appropriate measures on the illegal actors, “that is the reason for the increment of the theft from time to time.”
“The stolen materials do not go anywhere and they end up at steel mills. They have to stop at the check points,” the Public Relation Head said.
The PR head was baffled by regions on one having huge demands for the access to electricity whilst on the other they don’t observe safety of the existing facilities and installed lines. “It is a paradox,” he stated.
“The damages that occurred in the budget year could have covered projects for electrification,” he claimed.
He argued that any crime including petty ones ought not to be hidden from local governments. He also opined that such grand crimes should not be difficult to be cut by the long arm of the security apparatus which stretches to the lower levels.
“If the higher body in regions may not know about the case, the lower level governments in the Kebele should be well aware. They have to work on it to keep the line and take stringent measures on the thieves,” he added.
According to Moges, EEP has discussed the issue with regions to tackle the challenges, while it needs massive campaigns to solve the problem.
“Regions have promised to undertake awareness creation in the society and local governments to keep the infrastructures and law enforcement bodies to take appropriate measures on illegal actors,” he added.
Right off ways and security have also been stated as a challenge for the ongoing projects by EEP in the ended budget year and the power firm recommended that the issue will be solved immediately to address demands for electric supply.
In related development, EEP has disclosed that in the budget year that commenced on July 8 about 19,000 GWH electric will be generated.
Tiruwork Shiferaw, Planning Head at Operation Office at EEP, said that in the budget year 17 power generation stations will have a production capacity of 3, 862 MW on average.

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