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Stolen Electricity Also A Factor In High Energy Bills

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Rising temperatures outside are not the only reason heat and air-conditioning costs rise, according to one local energy company.

Energy thefts cost Progress Energy more than $1 million a year statewide, creating the potential for that cost to be passed on to paying customers. About 1,000 people statewide were caught last year, and so far this year, about 550 cases of meter tampering, a misdemeanor in North Carolina, have been investigated.

The problem, energy officials said, usually gets worse as the temperature rises.

"Especially the ones that are stealing electricity," said Progress Energy investigator Kirk Hatch said. "We've gone to locations where the AC is running and the windows are (open), doors open and they just don't care. But if they are stealing electricity we will catch them sooner or later."

Energy thieves, Hatch said, can be very creative, using a number of methods to tamper with meter boxes and reroute electricity.

But doing so, he said, is deadly and dangerous and usually leaves them vulnerable to the curiosity of neighborhood children.

Progress Energy told WRAL that people caught stealing electricity are usually given a second chance. Hatch said he would usually turn off the electricity and then work with violators to have power restored.

Investigators also leave notices on doors informing violators of violations, and the steps they need to take to resolve the violations. Customers are asked to contact Progress Energy to resolve the matter. For service in English and Spanish, they can call






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