Investigating the Prevalence of Illegal Meters on the National Grid

The government of Ghana instituted the National Electrification Scheme (NES) in 1989 as its principal policy for driving electricity access across the country for economic growth and development. The NES is operationalised through the National Electrification Master Plan and targeted universal electricity access by 2020. The current electricity access rate of 85.17 percent show that while progress toward universal access has been substantial, it has fallen short of the 2020 target. Consequently, the timeline for achieving universal electricity access has been shifted to 2025.

One of the vehicles for delivering the NES policy is the Self-Help Electrification Program (SHEP), a community-driven electrification mechanism. Under the SHEP, communities are assisted by the government to advance their connection to the national electricity grid ahead of their scheduled connection time under the National Electrification Master Plan. The program has been delivered in phases starting in 1990 and is currently in its fifth phase. SHEP has contributed to increasing the electricity access rate from about 23 percent in 1990 to 85.17 percent in 2021.

SHEP requires communities to be within 20km of an existing 33kV or 11kV supply, be prepared to purchase all Low Voltage (LV) poles to connected and have a minimum number of houses wired up and ready to receive electricity to be considered eligible for the program. While SHEP has been relatively successful in contributing to a growing electricity access rate, the program's fundamental challenge has been the inability of communities to procure the required number of LV poles and ensure the minimum number of houses are wired for connection. As a result, the meters for SHEP find their way outside the designated areas for SHEP implementation. The incidence of the SHEP meters being used outside its designated locations has resulted in the increasing trend of illegal connections to the grid, especially in urban residential areas. In a revenue protection exercise conducted by ECG in between December 2019 and January 2020, a total of 10,142 illegal SHEP metres were recovered in the Ashanti Region.

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