Nayu Kim

There’s a huge, often unseen infrastructure that lies between a source of energy and where it’s used — a pipeline or a set of wires or a trucking route. In some countries, that’s a big problem: It gives thieves a lot of opportunity to strike.

In India, they’re going after electricity.

In India, about a quarter of all power generated is either stolen or lost in transmission, five times the figure for China. Still more is given away to farmers, while the rest is sold to consumers for a loss, pushing state electricity companies toward bankruptcy and resulting in the rolling blackouts that afflict almost the entire nation every day and undermine its economic prospects. …

India’s state electricity companies have run up losses of $46 billion, or 2 percent of national income, largely financed by lending from public sector banks, straining the country’s financial system. As a result, the companies have little money to invest in equipment or pay salaries, or even to pay for the electricity they are receiving from newly built private-sector power plants.

This summer, massive blackouts on consecutive days left 670 million people without power. The primary cause was generation issues, but stolen energy doesn’t help the overall situation.

In Nigeria, the pilfered product is oil.

Nigeria lost of a total of $7 billion in potential oil revenue in 2011 due to theft through sabotage attacks on pipelines and production facilities in the Niger Delta, constituting a major drain on the nation’s economy, central bank chief Lamido Sanusi said.

At a meeting with lawmakers who are scrutinizing the government’s 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework in Abuja, Sanusi called for the bombing of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta region that serve as outlets for stolen crude. …

Nigeria relies on oil for more than 95% of government revenues.

Loss of government revenue is one of the better side effects of this theft. In July, people trying to steal fuel from an overturned truck were burned to death when the fuel caught fire.

Localized energy production — solar panels on roofs, for example — doesn’t fix the problem entirely. But, man, is it better.