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5 questions about copper theft

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Copper theft is on the rise. On the railways, but copper cables are also disappearing more and more from parks with solar panels. The copper price remains high for the time being, so the question arises: what can you do to prevent theft and other misery? Senior Risk Engineer Rob van Nierop (HDI) answers five questions.

1. How common is copper theft? Is it really taking off that much?

"I regularly see the damage caused by copper theft at solar parks at HDI, but more and more parks are also being added. I therefore find it difficult to talk about large increases in the number of thefts. In any case, these are very nasty damages for which little attention is paid, while we need to pay more attention to them across the board. After all, we are in an energy transition, which means that the demand for copper will continue to rise."

2. Why are they nasty damages?

"Because they lead to a lot of damage, especially for the entrepreneur. The stolen cables must be renewed as soon as possible after a theft. Often there is also damage to the transformer substations that have to take care of the generation. It usually takes a lot of time to get all that in order. And of course it depends on how big the solar park is and what measures the entrepreneur has taken in advance, but on average he spends about ten thousand euros a day on downtime damage and loss of costs."

3. Do you know who is committing the thefts?

"These are usually professional offender groups. The thefts at solar parks are even more professional than those at the NS. After all, you do need some technical knowledge of security systems and response times of alarm follow-ups. On the other hand, the professionals receive the locations in this way. Via Google Maps, they can see at a glance where the solar parks are located."

4. Is there anything we can do about it?

"Sure. A lot, in fact. An entrepreneur should preferably ensure that his solar park is secured in such a way that perpetrators look for other purposes. That starts with the nature and location of the location. Is there a fence around it? Is the park located on a deserted site? Or do people regularly walk by? The preventive effect of good visible security measures plays a major role. But the coherence and proper functioning of the entire system must also be geared to the risk. In security jargon, we call this O-B-E (Organizational, Architectural and Electronic). An entrepreneur can still put up such a high fence or have such a good alarm system installed, if the coherence is not correct, the chance of damage is still considerable. Sometimes it seems as if everything is correct and then it turns out that the phone is not answered by a follow-up service. You can't afford that kind of 'miss'."

5. What can insurers do?

"Delivering more customization. Fortunately, a fence, cameras, detection and reliable follow-up after alarms are increasingly seen as essential, but more is possible. If an entrepreneur invites several security companies for a quote, I can help him with the selection. I can also point him to the guidelines for security measures for outdoor areas, mobility companies and transport/logistics companies of the Dutch Association of Insurers. Or the BRL developed by Techniek Nederland and KIWA for construction site security (scope 1, level 1 to 4). It is really advisable to explore what is possible in advance with solar park projects. That works better than having to take your loss afterwards.
We notice that security is now often seen as a closing post. And if an entrepreneur does not have his affairs in order, an insurer can, for example, increase the deductible. Suppose that the first ten days of downtime damage are at your own risk, then an entrepreneur is at that average of 10,000 euros per day, so on a ton of damage. And if materials are difficult to deliver and contractors do not have time in the short term, the amounts are much higher. Of course we want to think along with that entrepreneur, so that he can take the right preventive measures in advance."

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