Energy operators warn an almost 400% rise in interference with energy equipment in the home risks house fires and electrocutions
Energy operators today warned of the risks associated with meter tampering and general electrical equipment interference, as new figures show an almost 400% increase in reported incidents between 2017 and 2021, a trend officials predict will continue to rise in 2022.
Tampering with meters and cutting into wires or pipes to interfere with energy supplies has caused house fires, gas leaks and electrocutions. Electricity meters in UK premises are connected to a voltage that can be fatal if not installed by a qualified professional and gas meters ensure there’s a constant and safe flow of gas into a property.
Recently, investigators identified illegal meter tampering as the cause of a tragic fire that gutted a property in Glasgow and led to a woman’s death. Police discovered the fire was started by a spark from a prepayment meter that had been illegally bypassed.
Though the UK’s safety standards are some of the highest in the world, the dramatic rise in tampering and electrical equipment interference means householders are at risk of further incidents. Operators are seeing DIY attempts at meter tampering that frequently lead to live electricity conductors being exposed or unsealed holes in gas supply pipes.
David Spillett, Head of Safety, Health and Environment at Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents the UK’s electricity and gas network operators, had the following safety warning:
“Tampering with your meter can create a ticking time bomb in your home.
“The UK’s electrical and gas engineers are highly trained professionals who ensure your home’s power system is entirely safe – tampering with their work risks serious harm to yourself, neighbours and your loved ones and damage to your property that will not be covered by insurance - it’s just not worth the risk.
“If you are struggling to pay your energy bill, please speak to your energy supplier or contact Citizen’s Advice for free and impartial advice.”
Peter Smith, Director of Policy, National Energy Action said:
“National Energy Action campaigns to ensure everyone in the UK can live in a warm and safe home. Given the recent relentless increases in energy bills, we know 6.7 million UK households are now in fuel poverty. The crisis is fuelling many types of unsafe and dangerous coping strategies in the home as millions try and adjust to record high bills.
"This worrying research indicates tampering with energy meters is now on the rise and while the motives, scale and the impact of related injuries or incidents is still largely unknown, it’s right to warn people of the risks.
"Meter tampering can be exceptionally dangerous and in extreme incidents can be life threatening - not only to the perpetrators but also nearby neighbours.”
Notes to editor
- The warning follows the Health Service Executive figures that show a 370% increase in meter and electrical equipment inference between 2017 to 2021, with an additional 16% increase projected by the end of 2022.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).