Copper Theft: Billion Dollar Problem

11 10, 2011 Articles
Copper Theft: Billion Dollar Problem

On November 9th, 2011, the IEEE Chicago Section Hosted a discussion about copper theft featuring A2V Partners founder, Matt Bedinghaus.

The following is an article released in their newsletter:

Anyone watching the news or keeping an eye on the price of metals is aware of the growing problem of Copper Theft. The IEEE–Chicago Section’s Power Engineering Society hosted a discussion on the ‘Billion Dollar Problem’ that highlighted the resulting volatility of copper prices. With 2011 witnessing the highest Copper price in history, the question of whether copper was necessary for grounding applications was asked. Stephen Oaks and Matt Bedinghaus were on hand to share insights into the growing problem of copper theft and offer alternatives.

Matt is the founder, CEO and Chief Engineer of A2V Partners, LLC, an engineering consulting firm that provides services to utilities and industrial clients throughout the Midwest. Stephen is a technical marketing consultant with over 25 years in global technical product marketing as well as a faculty member at the University of Phoenix. They split their presentation time equally between Matt’s handling of Copper Alternatives and Stephen’s highlights of costs associated with Copper Theft.

Stephen went first and shared some interesting statistics on the recent price of copper which during the week of the presentation was as high as $3.44/lb. With over $60 million spent encompassing 456,000 minutes of outage, 35 deaths, 52 injuries and well over 50, 000 incidents in 2008, 95% of utilities have been impacted in some way by copper theft. Direct costs to the utilities include material and equipment replacement costs, personnel training costs and any necessary litigation associated with the theft. That doesn’t include indirect costs like repair time, job delays and loss of consumer confidence in safe delivery. Stephen offered some alternative solutions including offering rewards for information leading to the arrest of thieves, working directly with recyclers and police officials and deterring theft through surveillance and warning signs.

Another solution was presented, the use of Copper Clad Steel (CCS) which is not just electroplated or dipped, but worked into the process through slow heating, hydrogen flaming and compression of copper strips. An elongated cooling process allows for optimum bonding. CCS is currently used in the following applications:

  • Transmission poles & towers
  • Substation ground grid & equipment grounds
  • Wind turbines and solar farms
  • Building structures and bridges

 

Matt continued the presentation focusing on the requirements and withstand ratings of CCS on fusing currents, DC resistance, Connectivity, Strength, Bend-ability and Corrosion. He referenced IEEE Std 80-2000 to answer questions about lightning surges. Tests on fatigue strength compare favorably with Copper, offering twice the strength making it ideal for high vibration environments like windy locations, roadside applications and bridges. Highlighting the two main goals of substation ground system design, Matt continued with optimal substation layout designs that successfully dissipate electric currents without exceeding equipment limits and limiting dangerous touch and step voltages.

After handling a number of questions from the group, Matt and Stephen shared their contact info for additional comments/questions. Share your feedback at:

For more information on Copper Theft, visit:

The next meeting of the IEEE–Chicago Section’s Power and Energy Society is a luncheon meeting on December 14th, Click HERE for more information.

Share this Post!


Comments are closed.