Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Stealing Electricity

"Zee Leetle Veel, It Eez Turning Veery Fast"

My phone rang.
A woman with a heavy European accent spoke.
“ I vant a man” she said.
“A man?” I said.
”An electrician! Do you haf von, can e come now?”
“Yes madam, what is your problem?”
“My eelectricity bill, it eez veery large.”
“How large?”
“Well usually it eez fife undred zousand Rupiah a mons but now I haf a bill for four and ze half million!”
“We’ll get someone round as soon as we can.”
“Can you send im quik, ze leetle veel, it eez turning veery fast.”
“I will send him now madam.”

The electrician arrived at a rather nice villa and quickly found the meter box. He soon found an “unusual”  wire connected to the box.
He took out his cutters and cut the extraneous wire.
“Suddenly it has gone very quiet” he thought.
He looked over the wall and noticed a building site next door. Everything had stopped.

The landlord had been “borrowing” electricity.

This is not a rare occurrence. A friend of mine was up in his roof wiring some lights once when he came across a wire he couldn’t account for. It came out of a junction box in his circuit and disappeared through a hole in the wall.

When he disconnected it he heard screams of complaint coming from all over the district. Showers stopped, televisions died and lights went out. Ibu “Looking looking”, the woman who ran a tourist shop next door and used to physically manhandle (sorry personhandle) unsuspecting passing tourists into her lair to be exploited, shrieked in dismay as her curling tongues went cold.

Connecting an electricity cable to someone else’s supply or even directly to the PLN supply is a surprisingly common practice in Bali. A recent comment from PLN suggested that, in Sanur, on paper there is plenty of spare capacity while the reality is that the system is so badly overloaded that there simply isn’t enough power available. One can assume that the same applies in other parts of the island.

The reason for this is the high number of people who are “borrowing” power from the system without paying for it.

You may find that you are being far more benevolent to your neighbours than you imagine. It might be an idea to do a simple check. You could switch everything off in the house, don’t forget the water pump and the fridges which tend to switch themselves on and off, and then see if the “leetle veel” in the meter is still turning. If it is still turning then check again, there may be something you have missed. If it is still turning you may have a problem and should get the circuits checked for other faults or for one of those “extraneous” wires.

At night you might wait for a popular show on television then switch off your supply at the master switch and listen for frustrated yells or cursing.

Another approach may be to watch your electricity bills to see if the usage is excessive or fluctuates at times that are different to your usage pattern.

Recently I came upon an old friend who told me that for years he had paid the local Banjar a generous sum of RP150,000 per month (My whole bill is less than that!) to come and read the meter and notify PLN of the reading. After many years (years?) PLN came and read the meter as a spot check. They handed over a bill for Rp 8 million! It turned out that for years the banjar had not bothered reading the meter but had sort of “estimated” usage but of course still pocketed the money. They were Rp 8 million behind in their payments.

“Pay up or we cut you off” said the nice PLN man in his best customer service tone. (At this point I will refrain from relating the story of my “customer service” experiences with a well known telephone company who I suspect have a customer service training manager called Rasputin. I now use Telkom). They eventually negotiated a deal to pay the outstanding bill over 6 months.

It pays to check your electricity bill. You also need to investigate before jumping to conclusions. A recent case of a 'not very obvious' short circuit in pool lights which caused heavy electricity loss indicates the point.

You should check the bill with your meter to make sure it has been recently physically checked. I know mine is regularly checked because my dog knows the meter reader well and likes the taste of his left leg, he is a retriever after all. The combination of a deep throated bark and a PLN wail is a very memorable and comforting sound that tells me all is well with my electricity bill.

Your electricity bill will tell you a lot and understanding it can help you save perhaps a lot of money. Next issue we will try and demystify it for you.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180