Smart meters and high-tech devices on hydro poles have left cannabis-growing power thieves little choice but to pay their electricity bills.
In 2011, field inspections found that 62 per cent of grow-ops identified by B.C. Hydro were stealing power from the grid. But B.C.’s smart-meter system, installed the same year, and other new devices have replaced the Crown corporation’s reliance on tips and risky human inspections and have helped put an end to tens of millions of dollars in losses each year.
John Millard, manager of revenue assurance, said B.C. Hydro isn’t involved in enforcement but will disconnect power from anywhere there is clear evidence of theft. It also takes legal steps to collect payment on stolen power.
And “99 per cent of the time” after police investigate, the thief turns out to be an illegal cannabis grower, Millard said.
The problem came to a head in 2010, when B.C. Hydro had 100 transformers fail prematurely and found it was providing over 850 gigawatt-hours of power that wasn’t being paid for. That equated to roughly $100 million annually in lost power, Millard said.