Thieves to copper shock

Thieves looking to make some quick cash by stealing copper on the Western Power network are in for a nasty shock, thanks to an innovation being rolled out across the utility’s network.

The pure copper grading rings used to earth the familiar ‘Green Box’ distribution substations have been an easy and increasingly popular target for criminals in recent years and their attacks on these assets are leaving potential safety risks to the community. But not any longer.

Western Power is swapping the pure copper cable with a copper clad cable. This means the cable has zero value as scrap but maintains high safety standards for assets on the Western Power network.

The utility’s executive manager of asset management Seán Mc Goldrick said around 130 sites throughout the metropolitan area were targeted every year by thieves looking to take advantage of coppers value as scrap metal.

“When criminals rip up the copper grading ring it can cause damage to the substation and potentially leaves it unearthed and a danger to the public,” Mr Mc Goldrick said.

There was a small saving in the material cost between the copper cable and the copper clad alternative, but the bigger savings came with the reduction of the associated costs of repair and clean-up once thieves had struck.

“On average Western Power would spend nearly $180,000 a year repairing the damage from copper thieves but the number of times we have been called out for repairs has already begun to fall,” Mr Mc Goldrick said.

“So over the next 15 years we will be looking at a projected total saving of around $2.7 million from this simple and safe change to the way we do work on the network.”

Since the roll out began, Western Power had not only seen a reduction in the number of distribution substations targeted but also a drop in the number of individual distribution substations that were targeted several times a year from raids for copper.

“The message is getting through that there is no value for copper thieves on these distribution substations and Western Power will not be feeding the habit of copper thieves,” Mr Mc Goldrick said.

Western Power will continue to roll the copper clad cable out at all distribution substations on the network until all appropriate sites have been converted.