21 Jul 2011

Tonga village power upgrade will reduce theft

1:37 pm on 21 July 2011

A project to provide safe electricity to 17 villages on Tonga's main island of Tongatapu is expected to reduce power theft.

Unlike other developing countries 90 percent of Tonga's population has access to electricity but much of it is through what are known as stick pole networks, where villagers illegally connect lines to coconut trees, sticks or washing line poles.

The cost of Tonga's diesel-generated electricity is subject to fluctuations in the price of the fuel and the chief executive of Tonga Power says it's mapped the relationship between power cost and the amount that's stolen.

Peter McGill says power theft or line loss is as high as four percent in some villages.

"What this project is going to do, it's going to improve safety tenfold within the village but it's also going to improve our efficiencies of supply and make it more difficult to create the opportunity to steal power."

Peter McGill says the project, which is funded by New Zealand's aid programme, should be finished by the end of 2013.