Crimestoppers has launched of a dedicated service for the public to help police and energy companies tackle the 150,000 cases of energy theft investigated every year.
Crimestoppers has partnered with with all 96 of the UK’s energy providers and distributors to launch stayenergysafe.co.uk. The website includes an anonymous reporting service for the public to report energy crime. This service, also known as the Energy Theft and Tip Off Service (ETTOS), was built by Electralink.
Energy regulator Ofgem states that the reported cost of energy theft to the UK public is around £440 million per annum. In 2014 it put new licence obligations on suppliers and network operators in place, giving them the responsibility of detecting, preventing and investigating energy theft. It also required them to set up and run a centralised Theft Risk Assessment Service (TRAS)
Tampered and bypassed meters present a major risk to life and property. One reported incident in Glasgow saw an elderly, housebound woman lose her life following a fire that was caused by a meter that had been tampered with by her son, who also lived in the house. She died of smoke inhalation, and he was prosecuted. The energy company in question subsequently visited other flats in the block of eight and found another four with a similar type of by-pass.
Around 1,500 people in the UK are charged by the police for energy theft each year. If found guilty, they are likely to have to pay back the value of energy stolen, plus the costs of the investigation. But the outcome can also include community service, or even a prison sentence of up to five years.
In one incident, an energy supplier was called in by police to help investigate a restaurant that was still trading, despite having had its electricity cut off since 2013. It was found that five other properties owned by the same person had recently been raided, revealing a number of dangerous activities:
· An illegal fuse carrier had been attached to an electricity meter with crocodile clips – resulting in a burnt meter box.
· A gas meter had been illegally removed, which resulted in the restaurant being evacuated and secured.
· A water valve had been installed in the ground to illegally divert the supply; and
· A gas flue had been redirected to the inside of the building – which meant that everyone inside had been in serious danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The restaurant was shut down, and the police arrested the restaurant owner for energy theft and other offences, including possession of stolen goods and growing cannabis.
Crimestoppers chief executive, Mark Hallas, said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a ground-breaking agreement that we have forged with the energy industry to ensure that crimes such as meter tampering are clamped down on. This isn’t just about supporting the industry, though, it’s about our duty to the communities we work with. Explosions and fires as a result of energy theft can be devastating, which is why we are running this service on behalf of the industry, to ensure our streets are safe.”
Ofgem’s chief executive Dermot Nolan comments: “Energy theft costs the UK hundreds of millions of pounds each year and puts people’s lives at risk. This is why we’re working with the energy industry to clamp down on this crime. The hotline will be an important tool to help end this offence. We are urging the public to use it, and pull the plug on energy theft once and for all.”
Paul Fuller, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue said: “We had a near fatal case of energy theft in Bedfordshire earlier this year when a flat in a high rise had a tampered meter, thankfully nobody was injured, but they could have been. I’m keen to back this service being launched by Crimestoppers because I’ve seen first-hand the impact a fire can have as a result of a tampered meter, and any means to prevent this from happening, I wholeheartedly support.”
Electralink celebrates launch
Following the consumer launch of the Stay Energy Safe campaign by Crimestoppers, ElectraLink, the provider of governance services and a regulated data transmission service to the gas and electricity market, is celebrating the successful go-live of the Energy Theft and Tip Off Service (ETTOS).
This follows the launch of the Theft Risk Assessment Service (TRAS) in April 2016, a data analytics service for GB energy suppliers to assess the risk of energy theft at consumer premises, helping to target theft investigations.
ETTOS is the final element of the project, which was awarded in 2014 to ElectraLink by industry code companies SPAA and DCUSA, which aims to improve the identification and detection of energy theft. This is the first time that the industry has come together with an external body such as Crimestoppers to work on a customer facing project of this scale.
ElectraLink has managed the procurement of data analytics provider Experian, as well as the project co-ordination of multi-party IT service providers and suppliers. Going forward, it will also be responsible for the long term management of the contracts and service provision, including change management.
Stuart Lacey, chief executive of ElectraLink, said: “We are privileged to operate at the centre of the UK energy market, with access to key data that can deliver real business value. The ETTOS project, as well as the earlier delivery of the back-end Theft Risk and Assessment Service (TRAS), covered both gas and electricity, requiring changes to industry codes, co-ordination between suppliers, and implementation of the data analytics service. We’ve demonstrated that significant cost savings for consumers can be achieved by using existing industry bodies to complete large change and IT projects such as these, and we’re proud to have delivered on time and on budget.
“This implementation follows the successful re-development of the Data Transfer Service which we completed earlier this year, reducing costs for industry participants.”
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