Power commission reports 22% surge in unpaid debt

On the bright side, electricity theft and technical problems were down 8.5%

There is good news and bad news for the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE): the public utility cut its losses due to electricity theft and technical problems by 8.5% last year but its bad debts increased by more than 20%.

Guillermo Nevárez, director of the state company’s distribution division, told a press conference that the CFE had overdue customer debt of 55 billion pesos (US $2.9 billion) at the end of 2019, a 22% increase compared to the end of 2018.

About 87% of that amount is owed by customers in just seven states: México state, Mexico City, Tabasco, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Chiapas and Veracruz. A significant proportion of the debt corresponds to municipal governments that have failed to pay their bills for electricity used to light streets and operate pumping stations.

Nevárez said some debtors have claimed that they are entitled to a “clean slate” for past debts after the CFE last year canceled 11 billion pesos in debt owed by more than half a million customers in Tabasco who joined a “civil resistance” movement against the public utility that began more than two decades ago.

However, the distribution chief stressed that most customers have an obligation to pay for the electricity that they’ve used. Nevárez added that almost 60% of customers in Tabasco whose debt was forgiven are now paying their bills.

Adding to the CFE’s woes is that it lost 54.84 billion pesos last year due to technical problems associated with electricity transmission, and power theft. On the bright side, the figure is more than 5 billion pesos lower that the 60 billion lost in 2018.

Just under half of the losses – 25.94 billion pesos – came from theft. Electricity is commonly stolen in Mexico via illegal hook-ups known colloquially as diablitos (little devils) and meter tampering.

Nevárez said that organized crime is also involved in power theft in many parts of the country.

Source: Expansión (sp) 

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