London, England — (METERING.COM) — July 5, 2013 – Proposals for new rules requiring suppliers to clamp down on electricity theft in Britain have been put forward by Ofgem.
This follows the introduction in January of similar rules to tackle gas theft.
Up to 25,000 cases of electricity theft are detected by the industry in Britain each year with the cost of such theft estimated at around £200 million, or approximately £7 per electricity customer. Up to a third of the volume of electricity stolen each year is believed to be used to power cannabis farms.
Under the proposed new rules suppliers would be required to detect, investigate and prevent electricity theft. These rules would be enforceable, meaning suppliers could face fines if they break them.
Suppliers would also have to set up a national theft risk assessment service to help them target premises where there are strong suspicions that electricity is being stolen.
Further, suppliers and network companies would be required to set up an industry code of practice governing how theft investigations should be carried out to ensure a consistent approach across the industry, and to share best practice on the identification of theft.
Regarding the tackling of theft by cannabis farms, it is proposed that efforts should be coordinated with other agencies such as the Home Office and local police forces.
“It’s critical that suppliers do all they can to clamp down on electricity theft,” commented Andrew Wright, Ofgem chief executive. “Ofgem wants to make sure that consumers are paying no more than they need to for their electricity, and lives are not put at risk.”
Ofgem is also pressing suppliers to introduce a 24-hour hotline for customers to report suspected theft. The regulator will also consider supplier proposals for a financial incentive scheme that will further encourage them to detect and prevent theft.
The proposals are open for consultation up to August 28.
Ofgem anticipates that the new license condition on electricity theft will be in place early next year, and that the theft risk assessment service will be up and running in the first quarter of 2015.