Jay Hancock: Smart meters could bust marijuana nurseries

From Jay Hancock's blog:

A column about BGE's smart meters last month had a throwaway line about how digital meters could blow the whistle on your marijuana grow lights. I hadn't thought much about it, but that's what people seem to believe will happen on a large scale in British Columbia, which is to pot what Texas is to oil.

It's not that pot growers are using metered kilowatts to grow their weed. Rather, they're pirating electricity by tapping the lines and routing it, unmetered, to their nurseries. Apparently it's difficult for the utility to detect unless they see the illegal lines because they have so little information about what's going on on the grid. Smart meters measure in real time how much energy goes into a network and how much is used at the other end by paying customers. Any difference, apart from normal resistance and line loss, is theft.

Here's Fiona Taylor, British Columbia Hydro's smart-meter czar, talking to the Vancouver Sun:

"Today we are operating blind. This system will allow us to follow the flow of electricity from point to point. We will be able to see at a macro-level what is happening.

"We'll be able to see how much came into a line. We'll know what the residential meter reads so we will be able to detect any anomalies, and special software will detect if there's been a theft from a power pole," she said.

Illegal electricity use by pot growers adds three percent to BC Hydro customers' bills, the story says. Shutting down the nurseries in barns and attics and basements is supposed to pay for the smart meters in less than 10 years. jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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