The scale of electricity meter tampering has been disclosed in a consultation document issued by the Energy Regulator. It appears that energy suppliers suspect around 5,000 meters are being interfered with. The extent of the losses from the theft involved has not been revealed. However it's understood that some customers are managing to avoid almost any payment while others are roughly halving their bills.
The tampering is mostly carried out by users of keypad meters. The main method employed involves small, powerful magnets which are used to falsify the amount of electricity consumed.
Now the Regulator is consulting on how to deal with the problem which, it's pointed out, results in higher bills for ordinary customers.
Strikingly it’s not how to frustrate the meter tamperers that’s the real issue. You just change the meter to a model that is more resistant to interference from magnets.
The real quandary is how to pay for the exercise. Currently there’s no established way of covering the cost.
NIE, which owns and looks after electricity meters, has come up with a proposal. If a supplier requests an intervention because it suspects theft through a keypad meter, NIE staff would step in and check what’s going on.
Various charges would then be applied depending on what needed to be done. Replacing a meter during a first visit would cost suppliers £58 with additional costs if a return visit were required.
The whole exercise of modifying or replacing 5,000 meters would cost £419,000. NIE suggests that suppliers requesting the meter change should foot 57% of the bill. The rest would be levied across all suppliers and paid for through distribution network charges
The Energy Regulator is now seeking views on the scale of these charges and who ultimately should cover the bill.