03 March 2015
Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC) has reason to believe that people in Fluvanna may be stealing electricity.
Current diversion, or power theft, happens when a person tries to tap into power lines before they get to the meter, explained CVEC member services manager Greg Kelly. They attempt to bypass the meter so their electricity usage doesn’t register. Once they get around the meter they try to connect the electricity to a subpanel or panel.
If their electricity usage doesn’t register on the meter, of course, they aren’t charged for it.
“Line loss is one of those things that’s difficult to detect,” Kelly said, “because the distribution system doesn’t have many feedback mechanisms.”
But when the company meters all the energy that goes out through a substation and compares it to the individual customer meter readings in aggregate, it sees a discrepancy of about 6 to 7 percent, according to the winter edition of CVEC’s member newsletter.
National data indicates that around 3 to 4 percent of that discrepancy comes from “line loss,” in which “energy dissipates due to heating or inefficiencies along the 4,500 miles of distribution line,” the newsletter said.
“We work hard to keep our system in good working condition,” Kelly said, “so if we have higher line losses we begin to suspect that there is some current diversion taking place.” That means possibly 2 to 3 percent of the energy on the distribution lines is being stolen.
“It could be costing us $1 million a year,” Kelly said.
Though there isn’t yet a way to narrow down how much theft happens in Fluvanna, Kelly said CVEC has had cases of power theft in Fluvanna and in other counties that have gone to prosecution. “We have and will continue to work with local law enforcement officials,” he said.