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Copper Theft on the Rise

As the cost of copper continues to increase, utilities across the country are experiencing an increase in the theft of copper wiring from poles, as well as substations.

As the cost of copper continues to increase, more and more utilities across the country are experiencing an increase in the theft of copper wiring from distribution and transmission poles, as well as substations. A recent report says U.S. utilities spent more than $60 million and experienced over 456,000 outage minutes from copper thefts. Copper theft is not only a crime affecting our wallets, but it is a dangerous crime. Last year 25 people were killed trying to steal copper from utility installations.

Duratel, a leading manufacturer of composite utility pole products for utility transmission and distribution, is giving utilities an alternative choice. Duratel composite poles are hollow and most utilities that purchase the pole opt for the ground copper wire to be run inside the pole. The process is handled inexpensively at the factory and the utility receives pole shipments ready for installation. Would-be copper thieves are thwarted by the fact that the copper ground cannot be seen or removed from the structure.

"More than 95 percent of all utilities in the U.S. say they have been impacted by the theft from copper from their facilities," said Ted Fotos, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Sales for Duratel. "There is an extraordinary cost to repair and replace the stolen wire from utility poles, and in many instances, restore power to customers that lost service as a result of the theft. Running the copper inside the Duratel poles is an ounce of protection that is much preferable to the pound of cure."

In Arizona, the Salt River Project lost an estimated $5 million last year because of copper thefts. Recent reports state that although thieves only got about $50,000 in copper, the repair and replacement costs are what drive the overall costs up. The South Carolina electric cooperative group lost about $1 million last year from copper theft.  In Washington, the Associated Press reported that Spokane County sheriff's deputies had 44 reports copper wire thefts since July in Spokane Valley and unincorporated Spokane County.

"In addition to preventing copper thefts, Duratel poles are being used extensively to eliminate guy wire issues, rear yard installations, woodpecker issues and hardening of the grid," continued Fotos.

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