Most of the utilities were stateowned, and until 1995 we faced very high inflation rates; those two factors meant that most companies were unwilling to take action against losses. Since then, however, we have seen many different approaches. Some utilities are working away quietly and getting good results; others are still trying to find the best way to prevent losses. These utilities have changed their approach several times, but are still not achieving satisfactory results. It shows us that we have many things to learn from one another.
Our National Regulatory Electrical Bureau (ANEEL) has been trying to find a way to deal with revenue losses. During 2001/2002 we faced electricity rationing that changed the situation completely in the southeast area, because strict rules were created in order to achieve the necessary energy savings. Some questions can help us understand whether or not we have made any progress:
1. Are most companies working with computer tools in order to be more efficient (and save money) when looking for customer installations that have irregularities (fraud or meter malfunction)?
2. Are most companies seriously engaged in doing inspections using specific field teams that are trained and well equipped for the purpose?
3. Are most companies dealing with revenue loss as a routine that must be tackled without any other conditions? Do they have the necessary metering and management reports in order to know the correct amount of the losses and how successful their actions are?
4. Is ANEEL prepared to manage the situation we face now in Brazil? We have utilities that have non-technical losses around 2% and others which are around 20%. What are the acceptable levels for those companies going to be during the next ten years? Is ANEEL trying to get a balance between how much the customers should pay for the losses and the economic health of the utility?
5. Can we dream about ‘zero losses’ in some specific places (like the slums we have in all big cities) when the State and Federal government do not have any power and do not do their duty of providing minimal services for the people living there?
According to the data available on the ABRADEE (the Brazilian electrical
energy distribution utilities association) web site, non-technical losses have increased over the last five years, even though we now have most utilities fighting against energy theft. The main reasons are:
• Poverty and areas where the government does not have any authority.
• Judicial behaviour when dealing with energy theft.
• Little use of new tools and software designed specifically for revenue protection purposes.
• Lack of investment in order to train inspection teams and to make inspections on a regular basis.
• Actions based on short-term goals (we know it is necessary to agree a long-term plan to get good and sustainable results).
• Most utilities do not have programmes to predict problems with old meters and/or do not know how much they lose because of faulty meters.
• Use of non-reliable seals and lack of systems to control seals.
Reviewing all these points, as well as the losses profile since 1996, shows us that we are losing the war against theft, faulty meters and other sources of non-technical losses. It is necessary to assume a proactive attitude, and for all utilities and ANEEL to work together, considering that the average nontechnical losses in Brazil are around 10% (US$3 billion a year) and that the situation we have now is unfair – customers who pay their bills are subsidising those who do not.