Everywhere you turn on a farm, electricity is providing the power to run the milking machines, irrigate fields, or feed and water chickens. Electricity is easily acquired through a utility company, but some people risk physical damage or loss of life to steal power.
Electricity theft is a problem encountered everywhere, from agricultural operations to tenant housing to city buildings. The Justice Department calculates that up to 1% of total energy production is stolen. That translated into an estimated $50 to $80 million cost for Georgians in 1997 to cover this loss.
With various tricks of the trade, individuals steal electricity by tampering with the meter to change the accuracy of the reading or they bypass the meter partially or completely. With these adjustments, they get free power or pay for only part of what they use. The small percentage of people who steal power includes all socioeconomic classes in all geographic regions. These thieves present a great danger to themselves as well as others. An improperly wired meter can have an explosive effect.
Damages can range from a burnt meter to the burnt limb of a utility worker. Utility companies provide safe power and wire in accordance with national electric codes. Any modification affects the safety of the electricity you receive. An unsuspecting utility repairman or a firefighter runs into the danger of pulling a supposedly "dead" meter, only to find out that it isn't.
Beyond the physical dangers, honest consumers may pay between $25 and $40 a year to cover the cost of power theft. The cost to every large power user, such as an agri-business, is substantially greater. Insurance companies also have to pay for this crime, which again transfers into higher premiums for the honest consumers.
If you think that someone is diverting power or there is a hazardous situation, you should call your utility company immediately.