People go to all kinds of lengths to steal electricity. Some simply turn their meters upside down so they run backwards. Others break into their meters and pour glue over the dials to gum them up and slow down readings. More daring (or desperate) electricity thieves use jumper cables to bypass the meter—exposing themselves to live, high voltage electricity in the process. And those who really wish to flirt with danger tap directly into power lines.
In many cases of meter tampering and electricity theft, perpetrators risk burns, electrocution, and even death. Those motivated to take the risk include some homeowners and renters, individuals who operate energy intensive businesses like laundromats and car washes, and indoor marijuana cultivars.¹ Despite the hazards, stealing electricity ranks as the third largest form of theft in the U.S., according to utility Pepco, behind shoplifting and copper theft. Various estimates peg the cost of electricity theft to the U.S. energy industry at around $6 billion per year.² Individual utilities, including Austin Energy and Ameren Missouri, have reported losing millions of dollars in stolen electricity."