Smart meter data catches electricity thieves

  • July 27, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Canadian utility Hydro-Québec has used smart meter data to shut down a major electricity theft network in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.

As part of an investigation initiated in April to detect electricity theft, Hydro-Québec targeted a dozen addresses in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, including Roberval, Saint-Félicien, Mashteuiatsh, Saint-Bruno, Hébertville and Chambord.

After analysing smart meter data, the authorities responsible for the fight against electricity theft were able to identify areas where the electricity use appeared unusual.

Hydro-Québec’s teams of inspectors and investigators intervened on site this month in collaboration with the Sûreté du Québec and the Sécurité Publique de Mashteuiatsh. It was confirmed that electricity theft had occurred in ten homes. No suspects have been arrested, and the investigation is ongoing.

The files will be submitted to the director of criminal and penal prosecutions for an evaluation of the criminal charges involving electricity theft and other infractions.

The investigation is one of many led by the utility’s corporate security teams to ensure revenue protection and integrity. In any given year, Hydro-Québec handles close to 400 files related to electricity theft. Annual losses from electricity theft are estimated at $22m to $75m.

Out of fairness to its customers, Hydro-Québec is continuing its efforts to counter fraud. By taking measures against electricity theft, the company aims to recover stolen amounts and prevent annual recurring losses due to these infractions.

It is asking citizens to call the confidential Ouvrons l’œil hotline to report fraud or what they think may be non-compliant electrical installations.

“It is important to remember that electrical installations that have been tampered with pose an increased risk of electrocution and/or fire,” said a statement from the utility.