Illicit lifting helps illegal operations hike profits, but it leads to a very dangerous situation for everyone.
Illegal cannabis grow-ops are contributing to what has been called “electricity addiction,” an ongoing challenge that is leaving legal electric utilities in the U.S. and elsewhere shy millions of dollars annually.
Police in California, for instance, recently busted three illicit operations that were stealing electricity, according to Forbes. The stolen power tally for the busted grow-ops had cash equivalents of approximately US$120,000, US$88,000 and US$11,000. That is the same electricity amount, about US$202,000, as a bigger illegal grow find this past February, writer Robert Bryce notes.
It is a problem throughout the state, the U.S. (with electricity stealing having taken place in Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and New York) and around the world.
For instance, figures from Netbeheer Nederland, or the Dutch Safety Board, indicate that grow operations — 2,300 of these were dismantled in the country in 2019 — steal about 1 billion kWh of electricity a year, according to IMA Buds.
“Each year, electricity to the value of €200 million is illegally tapped and at least 65 house fires occur as a result of hemp cultivation,” the board says.
The stats are shocking in Canada, too
Several years ago in Canada, Forbes again wrote about how B.C. Hydro “estimated that losses had metastasized from 500 gigawatt-hours in 2006 to approximately 850 GWh by 2013.” That cost of the power was “in the order of $100 million annually.”
By 2011, according to Forbes, “it was estimated that 52 per cent of the growers were stealing power, more than double the figure from the previous decade.”
But through a host of preventive measures and upgrades, the utility “has been able to significantly minimize energy and revenue loss to theft, while limiting technical and non-technical issues.” Indeed, Vancouver Sun reported in late 2016 that things like smart meters and devices on hydro poles “have left cannabis-growing power thieves little choice but to pay their electricity bills.”
No one farm should have all that power
There are plenty of potentially problematic effects of power theft, for both outdoor and indoor cannabis grows, which serve to ratchet up risks to property and human safety.
The conclusion of a study out of the University of the Fraser Valley, says that “growers are more concerned with avoiding detection than preventing electrical hazards.”
B.C. Hydro agrees, saying that electricity theft can be costly and dangerous to both the thieves and others, upping the potential for power surges and fires because stealing “creates situations where more power flows through the lines than is expected,” notes a