|Paying the Price of Power Theft|
|Library of Articles - Equipment Tampering/Copper Theft|
It’s often an “invisible” crime. Someone illegally hooks into a power supply, hooks up a line that has been disconnected, or tampers with a meter to avoid recording electricity usage. Legitimate electricity consumers do not engage in these behaviors, so the impact of electricity theft – including the danger - is often unrecognized.
Power theft carries deadly risks. Many thieves have paid for the power they are stealing with their lives. But the danger does not end with those who are engaging in illegal activity. “Tampering with electrical equipment or attempting to steal electric power carries the potential to harm many people,” says Hall. “The innocent consumers on the same line and utility personnel that work on those lines are all at risk when someone tampers with electricity or electrical equipment.” An overload of electricity could result in extremely high voltages that may damage appliances of paying customers.
Excessive current that is not safeguarded by a fuse is especially dangerous. In emergency situations such as fires, power has to be shut off to help firefighters and ambulance crews to enter a building safely. If lines have been interfered with illegally, the lines could remain energized, endangering the lives of the emergency personnel.
From a reliability standpoint, illegal connections to power sources and attempts to divert metering devices can overload the system, cause interruptions and compromise power quality.
In Calgary, Canada, utility officials estimate that up to 60% of power outages are attributed to some form of tampering with electrical equipment.
Safe Electricity reminds that everyone can help prevent and reduce power theft:
Most electrical theft crimes occur through meter tampering, bypassing meters, and tapping power lines. Other less frequent crimes include tapping into neighboring premises, using illegal lines after being disconnected, self-reconnection without consent, and electrifying fences. Possessing fraudulent electricity bills is also a federal crime and is punishable by law.
The theft of electricity is a challenge that the electricity distribution industry faces to remain sustainable and viable and safe. If illegal connections were curbed, more power would be available to customers who obey the law, power quality and safety would increase and people would experience fewer service interruptions.
Everyone is affected by power theft, and detecting and reporting illegal activity will help reduce the price paid.