Delivering high-capacity, long-haul power to 39 electric membership corporations (EMCs) across the state of Georgia requires a network of reliable equipment. For Georgia Transmission Corp. (GTC), more than 3,000 miles (4,828 km) of transmission lines coupled with more than 600 substations is enough to deal with just to keep the power going every day.

Like co-ops and EMCs nationwide, GTC has been a victim of copper theft. Some utilities have reported losses due to theft reaching millions of dollars. These costs take into account replacement material, labor and the cost of service interruptions. Something is needed to break this vicious cycle.

GTC started looking into Southwire Co.'s Proof Positive Copper in early 2010. Proof Positive Copper is a traceable grounding conductor for substations and pole grounds, with laser-etched TraceID codes to provide immediate proof of ownership for prosecution. One tin-coated outer strand provides for easy visual identification at a recycler and becomes a long-term theft deterrent as thieves learn this is a traceable copper product.

After careful consideration and many discussions with Southwire, GTC knew this was a viable option. The ability to prove ownership of their wire without question was the element missing from other theft-deterrent options.

In October 2010, thieves stole standard copper grounding wire from GTC's Hagen Creek substation. The substation was then repaired, but this time using 4/0-19 Proof Positive Copper. One week later, the same substation was hit again. This time the thieves weren't aware they had taken a new kind of traceable copper.

Deputies responding to the substation alarm chased two suspects into the woods, and with help from their K-9 unit, were able to track and arrest the suspects. Police located the suspects' vehicle in the woods near the substation and found 40 ft (12 m) of Proof Positive Copper inside.

GTC's lead investigator was able to demonstrate the traceable aspect of the product for the police, using the serial number on the recovered wire and proving GTC's ownership.

The immediate positive identification removed any doubt that the wire was GTC's. The defendants were both charged with Criminal Damage to Property-2nd Degree (a felony), Theft by Taking (a felony) and Criminal Trespass (a misdemeanor).

GTC continues to install Southwire's Proof Positive Copper in substations and pole grounds to ensure reliable power for its EMC customers across the state.

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