3/23/2007
APPALACHIAN POWER COMBATS THEFT WITH DECEPTION

Charleston, W.Va., March 23, 2007 - Appalachian Power recently added deception to its arsenal of tools used to combat copper theft. The key to the trickery is a product that looks just like pure copper grounding material, but isn’t.
 
“The thieves likely won’t discover it until they’re at the salvage yard,” said Robert Gates, Appalachian Power’s manager of distribution services.
 
“That’s when they’ll learn they likely won’t get enough money to cover their cost of gasoline to drive there.”
 
Copperweld is a commercially available compound with less expensive metals in its center, and a copper surface. Only about 40 percent of the product is copper.
 
Since the price of copper jumped up over a year ago, the theft of copper electrical equipment skyrocketed. One of the most frequently stolen pieces of equipment is the copper ground wire. The copper wire provides a path to ground for electric faults, protecting equipment, the public and line personnel, so it is particularly dangerous when it is removed.
 
Although the theft of copper declined in recent months, in part due to cold weather, according to Gary McGraw, Appalachian’s region security coordinator, there are still hotspots. Namely, pockets in the Logan and Beckley areas.
 
Appalachian recently rewrote its design specifications for ground wire installation, specifically in high theft areas. The new standard includes installing Copperweld ground rods, covering them with plastic sheathing, and stapling both the rods and the covers to the pole every 12 inches.
 
“Copperweld provides the level of protection needed, at a quarter of the cost of pure copper, plus in the long run, we hope that thieves will learn there’s no value in stealing our grounds,” Gates said.
 
The theft of electrical equipment is a deadly and costly practice. In addition to risking their own lives, those stealing wire and other electrical equipment often leave behind conditions that can endanger others, including both the public and power company employees, all for just a few dollars for a pound of copper. Appalachian Power is working with law enforcement agencies, recycling centers and the public to stop the theft of electrical facilities.
 
Appalachian Power has a toll-free telephone number dedicated to security issues. Anyone reporting suspected theft or tampering with electrical equipment should call toll-free 1-866-747-5845.
 
Appalachian Power provides electricity to 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee as AEP Appalachian Power.  It is a unit of American Electric Power, the nation’s largest electricity generator.  AEP owns more than 36,000 megawatts of generating capacity and is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, with more than 5 million customers in 11 states. 
 
                                                            ###

Phil Moye
Corporate Communications Manager WV
304-348-4188
pamoye@aep.com

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