Energy Theft: An Introductory Guide

17 March 2024

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Energy Theft: An Introductory Guide

As an experienced supplier of energy, SEFE Energy understands the critical role energy plays in the daily functions of organisations. Energy theft is a far-reaching issue that affects businesses across various sectors, impacting both their safety, bottom line, and the overall efficiency of operations.


In this blog, we will delve into the world of energy theft, exploring what it entails, how to detect it, steps to report it, and crucially, strategies to prevent it. This information is vital for those managing a business’s energy supply, providing them with the knowledge needed to safeguard it from the detrimental effects of energy theft.


What is energy theft?

Energy theft, also known as meter tampering or meter fraud, occurs when individuals or businesses manipulate their energy supply to enable them to consume energy without it being properly measured and recorded. This illicit practice not only poses a significant safety risk but also for businesses, energy theft translates to higher operational costs, distorted financial forecasts, and potential disruptions in service delivery.

A common form of energy theft involves making a new unauthorised connection from an existing customers supply without their knowledge. Another common method involves bypassing the energy meter altogether by tampering with the equipment that is designed to measure the gas or electricity being used by a building. This can be achieved by installing wiring or pipes that bypass the meter entirely, sometimes using items as unsafe as hosepipes or bicycle inner tubes.

Alternatively, those looking to getting around the costs of energy may tamper with the meter directly by altering cogs that measure the energy being used so the meter registers less energy than is actually being consumed.

All forms of energy theft place an undue burden on honest energy consumers but also jeopardises the reliability of the energy infrastructure and potentially the safety of both the party undertaking the theft but also other individuals and businesses.


Detecting energy theft

Identifying energy theft is crucial for businesses aiming to maintain transparency in their energy consumption and prevent financial losses or even criminal investigations. Various signs and symptoms can indicate potential meter tampering or unauthorised energy usage.

Businesses should remain vigilant and the following is some of the things to watch out for:

Sudden Changes in Consumption Patterns: Unexplained and abrupt changes in energy usage patterns may signal tampering with the meter or unauthorised connections. For example, if energy is being taken from an existing customer , it would increase consumption from the existing customer’s meter. On the other hand, an illegal connection bypassing the meter may cause a reduction in energy consumption.

Irregularities in Meter Readings: Discrepancies between the meter readings and the expected energy consumption can be indicative of energy theft. Regularly comparing recorded data with anticipated usage is essential for early detection.

Electricity Meters - Abnormal Heat Levels: When it comes to Power, physical inspections may reveal unusually high heat levels around the metering equipment, suggesting potential tampering or bypassing. Abnormal heat levels may be difficult to detect, but signs such as burn or scorch marks on the meter detect that the levels of heat are out of the ordinary.

Unusual Wiring or Piping Configurations: Non-standard wiring or piping configurations around the energy meter may be a clear indication of unauthorised alterations. It may be helpful to have an engineer come out to check your wiring if you have any concerns.

Unexplained Equipment Failures or Damage: Frequent breakdowns or damage to energy equipment without a plausible explanation could be linked to an attempt at energy theft. Having a professional investigate these incidents promptly is crucial.


How to report energy theft

As a first step, businesses should get in immediate touch with their energy supplier to report any suspicions of energy theft. The supplier will conduct an initial investigation and advise on the next course of action.

Alternately if you don’t know who your Supplier is or you wish to remain anonymous and you suspect energy theft, it is essential to report the issue promptly to Stay Energy Safe, an organisation set up by Crimestoppers, with all information being confidential and anonymous. Reporting not only protects the business from financial losses but also contributes to maintaining the integrity and safety of the energy supply chain.


The following steps outline the process of reporting energy theft:

Provide Detailed Information: When reporting energy theft, it is crucial to provide as much detailed information as possible. This includes any evidence of irregularities, unexpected drops in consumption, or other indicators that suggest theft may be occurring

Cooperate with Investigations: Businesses should fully cooperate, providing access to relevant areas and information to facilitate a thorough investigation

Maintain a Record: Keeping a record of all communications, including emails, phone calls, and any documents exchanged.


How to prevent energy theft

Preventing energy theft is a proactive approach that businesses can take to safeguard their operations and financial stability. Implementing robust measures to deter and detect unauthorised energy usage is critical. Here are some strategies businesses can adopt to prevent energy theft:


Upgrade to Advanced and Smart Meters: Consider upgrading to smart meters, which offer enhanced monitoring capabilities and real-time data. You can find out more about getting a smart meter here.

Implement Data Analytics: Utilise advanced data analytics tools to monitor energy consumption patterns continuously. These tools can detect anomalies and irregularities in real time, providing early warnings of potential energy theft.

Secure Energy Supply and Cables Properly: Physical security is paramount. Ensure that pipes cables and metres are well-protected to deter tampering. Install tamper-evident seals and use secure enclosures to make unauthorised access challenging.

Conduct Regular Inspections: Regular inspections of energy meters and related infrastructure are essential. Schedule routine checks with a qualified gas engineer or electrician gas to identify any signs of tampering, unauthorised connections, or irregularities in the wiring.

Employee Awareness and Training: Educate employees about the consequences of energy theft on safety and profitability and the importance of reporting any suspicious activities promptly. A vigilant workforce is a valuable asset in helping to reduce energy theft.

Energy theft poses a significant threat to businesses, impacting both their safety, financial health and the overall stability of the energy grid. As responsible energy consumers, businesses must be vigilant in detecting and reporting any signs of energy theft.

By implementing preventive measures such as data analytics, secure infrastructure, and regular inspections, businesses can fortify their defences against energy theft . SEFE Energy encourages businesses to take a proactive stance in safeguarding their energy resources, fostering a safe, sustainable, and transparent energy ecosystem helping to safeguard themselves and the business.


SEFE Energy is one of the UK’s leading business energy suppliers, helping thousands of businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or request a quote today here.

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