PNG Power Ltd believes more than 1,000 people are making illegal electricity connections in Western Highlands capital, Mt Hagen.
This would class it as the urban centre with the highest number of illegal connection in the country, a PNG Power investigation has found.
These were at both businesses and residences and the national electricity provider has warned of dangers of electrocution if these connections were done by unlicenced electricians.
PNG Power investigator Munny Saun, who is based in Port Moresby, made these startling revelations after visiting Mt Hagen last week to crack down on illegal connections.
Mt Hagen, unlike Port Moresby, is in the process of switching over to user pre-paid EasiPay system, which would make illegal connections virtually impossible.
Mr Saun said for some time now, PNG Power Ltd had been concerned over the increase in illegal connections of power by businesses and residents in Mt Hagen.
On Saturday, a shop operator, who owed PNG Power K10,996.57 was arrested and questioned by police for illegally connecting power to his property after it had been disconnected for eight months.
Mr Saun said the operator had used K1,747 worth of power through illegal connection.
He said this was one of the four major culprits – two in Kindeng and one in Newtown – who were caught and questioned by police.
Mr Saun said the Newtown area had a very risky connection as the person decided to connect power to the property directly from the main power line.
Mt Hagen branch manager Leo Savingu said illegal connections were dangerous because people could be electrocuted or buildings could be put at fire risk.
He said PPL in Mt Hagen now had the resources and manpower including lawyers and investigators to carry out regular checks on suspected areas unlike in the past.
“There are more than 1,000 illegal power users in Mt Hagen but we will force them to pay up, even arrested,” he said.
Mr Savingu said the EasiPay meter would be installed at businesses and residences which had settled their outstanding bills.
“It is a give and take situation where we provide an essential service and we expect customers to pay their bills.
“If consumers are found to make illegal connections, they would be referred directly to police to answer to criminal charges before they can even think about paying their outstanding amounts,” he said.
Mr Savingu said in the case with the proprietor, PNG Power had referred him to police to be charged with illegal connection as well as being asked to settle his outstanding bill of more than K12,000.