Meter Tampering:
The Major Cause of Non-Technical losses

Smart meters are an increasingly popular and important solution to the growing problem of electrical energy theft. Smart meters are digital devices that monitor and measure electricity usage at the consumer level, allowing energy providers to detect any anomalies or signs of tampering. By using smart meters, energy companies are able to better combat electrical energy theft, which is a major cause of non-technical losses for utility companies.

What is energy meter tampering?

Electrical energy meter tampering refers to any form of alteration, manipulation, or modification done to an electrical energy meter, which results in inaccurate meter readings. This is done to reduce or avoid the amount of electricity that the consumer is charged for. It is an illegal practice that causes non-technical losses, which are a major problem in the energy industry.
Meter tampering can be done in several ways. Most common method is hooking or bypassing the meter, where a consumer directly connects the electrical load to the service line, allowing electricity to flow without passing through the meter. The other 200+ methods I can't disclose here, but we are aware of them.

Energy meter tampering is illegal, and it also puts the safety of the consumer and the electrical network at risk. Tampering with meters can cause electrical fires, explosions, and other safety hazards that can result in severe consequences. Very popular was during my visit in Lagos (Nigeria) shortcuts and outages while attempting to hook on the power line.

Overall, electrical energy meter tampering is a significant problem that results in non-technical losses in the energy industry. To combat this issue, it is important to understand the motivations behind the practice and the ways in which it can be prevented. By addressing this issue, the utilities can ensure the safety of consumers and reduce the costs associated with non-technical losses.

Meter Tampering, The Major Cause Of Non Technical Losses (symbol Image, Credit Clou)
Meter Tampering, The Major Cause Of Non-Technical Losses (symbol Image, Credit CLOU)

What are the countries with the highest loss due to tamper?

It is important to note, that estimates below may not fully capture the extent of energy theft and meter tampering in the country, as many cases may go unreported or undetected.


Energy theft and meter tampering are significant issues in Nigeria's power sector, with losses estimated to be around 30% of total energy generated in the country. According to a report by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), the estimated value of energy lost due to meter tampering, electricity theft, and other non-technical losses in the country is over ₦150 billion (Nigerian Naira) or approximately $390 million USD annually.


According to a report by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) of India, the losses due to meter tampering and energy theft in India's power sector were estimated at around 4.4% of the total electricity generated in the country in the financial year 2019-2020. The CEA report also revealed that meter tampering is the biggest contributor to these losses, accounting for around 25% of the total losses due to energy theft. In monetary terms, the estimated loss due to energy theft and meter tampering in India's power sector is significant, with some estimates putting it at over $16 billion USD annually.


The loss due to energy theft and meter tampering in Pakistan's power sector is estimated as high as 20% of total electricity generated in the country. According to a report by the World Bank, the estimated value of non-technical losses in Pakistan's power sector, which includes energy theft and meter tampering, was around PKR 447 billion (Pakistan Rupee) or approximately $2.7 billion USD in the financial year 2019-2020.


Some estimates suggesting that losses may be as high as 5% of the total electricity generated in the country. According to a report by the State Grid Energy Research Institute, the estimated value of energy lost due to meter tampering, electricity theft, and other non-technical losses in China's power sector was around RMB 20 billion (Chinese Yuan) or approximately $3.1 billion USD in 2019.


The loss due to tampering of energy meters and electricity theft in Brazil is a significant issue, with some estimates suggesting that it could be as high as 10% of the total electricity generated in the country. According to a report by the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL), the total amount of energy stolen in Brazil in 2020 was approximately 13.2 TWh, equivalent to around R$ 7.3 billion (Brazilian Real) or $1.3 billion USD.

Why do people commit this crime?

There are various reasons why individuals or entities may choose to tamper with electrical energy meters. One of the most common reasons is to avoid paying for the amount of electricity consumed.
This is particularly true in developing countries, where energy costs can be high, and electricity bills may be unaffordable for many people. In some cases, businesses may tamper with meters to reduce their operational costs and increase their profits.

Another reason why people may choose to commit this crime is due to the lack of enforcement and penalties for meter tampering. In some areas, the penalties for tampering with meters are not severe enough to discourage individuals or businesses from engaging in this illegal activity.
Moreover, there may be little or no accountability for energy companies to monitor and detect meter tampering, further encouraging the crime.

In certain cases, meter tampering may also be due to the lack of access to legal and regulated electricity. Some communities may not have access to energy services or may be underserved by the local energy provider. In such cases, people may resort to tampering with meters as a way of accessing electricity without being charged exorbitant fees.

Whatever the reason, meter tampering poses significant risks not only to energy companies but also to the public. This crime can lead to accidents, fires, and even fatalities. As such, it is important to combat electrical energy meter tampering through effective enforcement and the implementation of advanced technologies such as smart meters.

How does meter tampering lead to non-technical losses?

Meter tampering is a serious problem that leads to non-technical losses in the electrical energy sector. When individuals tamper with electrical energy meters, they are able to bypass the measurement system that is used to calculate the amount of electricity consumed.
As a result, they are able to obtain electricity for free or at a lower cost than what is required, leading to significant financial losses for electricity providers.
The impact of meter tampering is felt by all consumers, as it contributes to increased energy costs due to revenue losses for electricity providers. Non-technical losses from meter tampering account for billions of dollars annually, which can result in reduced investments in the electricity sector, ultimately leading to power outages and decreased reliability.

Tampering also poses a serious threat to public safety, as individuals who tamper with meters may not adhere to safety regulations, thereby putting themselves and others in danger.
Meter tampering leads to non-technical losses and undermines the reliability of the electricity supply. To combat this issue, electricity providers have been turning to the use of smart meters, which can provide more accurate and tamper-proof measurements. By using advanced technology, smart meters can monitor electricity usage in real-time, making it much harder for individuals to tamper with meters without detection. This innovative technology not only helps to reduce non-technical losses, but also provides a more efficient and reliable system for electricity consumption.

What are some ways to combat meter tampering?

As the world advances, so do the methods of combating electrical energy theft. One of the most effective ways to do this is through the installation of smart meters. Smart meters are advanced versions of traditional meters that have the capability to track energy usage and monitor potential theft. They have a communication module that enables them to send and receive data, making them an essential component in the fight against energy theft.
Another way to combat meter tampering is through the use of physical unforgeable seals that protect the meters from tampering. The seals can be placed on the meter and any tampering will be immediately evident, making it easier to track and catch the culprits. Additionally, regular inspection and maintenance of the meters can help identify potential cases of tampering.
Education and awareness campaigns can also be used to discourage people from engaging in meter tampering. By educating people about the dangers and negative effects of electricity theft, we can prevent them from indulging in such activities.
Finally, effective law enforcement and punishment for energy theft can act as a deterrent. Heavy fines, imprisonment, and the threat of criminal records can discourage people from committing this crime.


Meter tampering is a serious problem for power companies and utilities, as it can result in significant financial losses. It involves the manipulation of energy meters to reduce the amount of energy consumption recorded, leading to non-technical losses. By implementing effective prevention strategies, power companies and utilities can protect their revenue and minimize non-technical losses caused by meter tampering.

CLOU energy meters provide a comprehensive range of tamper detection methods, ensuring that your energy usage is accurately measured and recorded. Our meters are designed to work seamlessly with AMI system solutions, which means also regional hooking can be detected efficiently. If you're interested in sourcing smart meters and need advice on reducing tamper losses, please contact us today to learn more about our range of energy meters and services. Our team of experts can discuss all aspects of reducing tamper losses in detail, ensuring that you have the right solutions in place to protect your revenue.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2023 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

4 Replies to “Meter Tampering: The Major Cause of Non-Technical losses”
  1. Is any tool for automation of analysis of events logs received from smart meters by MDM in order to detect tampering available? Or any other automation tool to detect tampering?

    1. Thank you for your question, Eddie. I can only speak for our AMI system, where you can get the tamper events from the meter logs either as consolidated list (preferable) or even as push message. Basically, each MDM should be able to make such evaluations. Please take in this context a look at the tamper event log.

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