ESB Networks has warned the Donegal public of the dangers of tampering with electricity meters, following the rise in prosecutions taken locally for power theft.
There has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of cases of power theft since 2009 with cash-strapped customers by-passing electricity meters to take power into their homes. A number of cases are before Letterkenny District Court and a Lifford man was prosecuted late last year for fitting a device to alter the flow of electricity from the supply.
ESB Networks, the independent Distribution System Operator which provides connection and metering services for all electricity customers in this country, says there has been a significant increase in cases of interference with electricity supplies since 2009 and that is consistent with what happens in a recession. The cost of the activity is estimated at between €7million and €10million a year.
One method of lowering the consumer’s bill is the fitting of a device which alters the flow of electricity. The ESB says it is very concerned about the safety risks involved in tampering with electricity supply.
The practice is widespread across the country and is an industry issue which also occurs in the North and Britain. Spokesman for ESB Networks Brian Montaigne said the increase in cases was being taken very seriously. “We are taking it very seriously and we are far more proactive now as to where these issues arise.
“Obviously they have a significant impact on customers because un-metered supply ends up being a cost to all customers.
“A fatality is a likely outcome at some point in time if people are ignorant of what they are dealing with. People are prepared to take certain risks and it does present serious risk to life and it is a very serious public safety issue.
“People are by-passing the protection systems that exist and it could have fatal consequences. It’s a very serious public safety issue for us.”
While no fatalities have been recorded in such cases, people have suffered injury.
The ESB also warned that it will take prosecutions in all cases that it can where it finds interferences with electricity supply in homes or businesses. Interference with electricity supply also occurs in the illegal production of cannabis.