Overcoming Copper Theft


How utilities can protect overhead facilities from theft

FERNANDO BALDIZON, Southwire Company

What do a train station in Norway, a house in Australia, and an electrical substation in South Carolina have in common? Copper theft is the billion-dollar answer—as in this crime’s annual economic impact, a growing epidemic that plagues communities across the globe. At the Norway train station, copper theft caused signaling and railway barriers to malfunction, forcing trains to be manually routed for hours. In Australia, a man posing as a cable technician ripped out $110,000 worth of copper wire from hundreds of homes.

In the U.S. in summer 2013, thieves stripped a 12-foot strand of copper grounding wire worth 10 dollars, yet ended up being much more costly. The rip off caused a substation fault, dropping service to more than 15,000 Duke Energy customers in Greenville, South Carolina.

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