Pubdate: Sat, 24 Aug 2002
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Author: Jeff Outhit


WATERLOO REGION -- You're probably not growing marijuana at home. But you 
are paying for the electricity stolen by criminals who do.

You'll have better idea what their crime is costing you, now that two local 
hydro utilities have remodelled their bills.

A new billing line, called loss or usage adjustment, reveals what you pay 
for power for which the utility cannot account.

The fee is a surcharge, from three to five per cent, applied against parts 
of your hydro bill. In Kitchener and Cambridge, it includes:

What you're paying to compensate for stolen hydro.

What you're paying for electricity that's naturally lost to power lines 
between the generating station and your home.

A recent Kitchener hydro bill revealed it to be worth about $6 on a total 
charge of $294.

Hydro utilities have always billed customers for lost and stolen power, 
just as retailers hike merchandise prices to make up shoplifting losses.

"It's basically spread amongst all the customer base," said Wally Malcolm, 
director of customer services for Waterloo North Hydro.

What's new is that, in response to new legislation, they are spelling out 
the surcharge.

Waterloo North says its surcharge (the highest of three local utilities) 
excludes theft, which remains part of the regular rate.

Utilities in Kitchener and Cambridge say they cannot estimate how much of 
their surcharge is for theft and how much is transmission loss.

"Theft of power has always been a concern. We know that it's on the 
increase, because we're discovering more and more cases of marijuana 
grows," said Gerry Guthrie, a vice-president at Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro.

It's estimated the power stolen for home marijuana growing costs hydro 
users $500 million a year in Ontario.
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