Tuesday, April 9

Electricity fraud in marijuana plantations doubles in four years

Marijuana plantation in the Barcelona town of Vilasar de Mar, dismantled this month. / CR

The company Endesa closed 1,636 files on points that consumed electricity equivalent to that of 45,000 homes for these plantations

Jose Maria Waiter

Endesa closed 2021 with a total of 1,636 electrical fraud files linked to marijuana plantations located inside homes or buildings, twice as many as in 2018, according to the company.

Specifically, this figure shows an average of 4.5 illegal connections for the cultivation of cannabis uncovered per day and highlights a growing problem in many locations in the country, which affects the safety of residents, the quality of electricity supply and citizen coexistence.

Likewise, the energy recovered in 2021 by e-distribution, the energy company’s network subsidiary, in frauds linked to the cultivation of cannabis plants amounted to 159 million kilowatt hours (kWh), the equivalent of the consumption of 45,000 homes.

This amount of electricity represents 20% of the total energy recovered last year by Endesa in the set of frauds detected.

However, Endesa indicated that these figures correspond only to the areas in which e-distribución operates as a distribution company and to the fraud discovered, since estimates indicate that the electricity consumption of marijuana plantations in Spain would amount to 1.5 terawatts hour (TWh), equivalent to the electricity demand of Palma de Mallorca in one year.

Endesa’s General Director of Infrastructure and Networks, José Manuel Revuelta, considered that electricity fraud is “harmful to society as a whole, since it translates into an increase in the electricity bill of all consumers and puts at risk both the security as well as the quality of supply for the rest of the users”.

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In addition, he stressed that, “above all”, irregular connections and manipulations of the electrical installation imply “significant risks to the health of the person who performs them and those around him, since they can cause fires, electrocutions and shocks electrical”.

Likewise, the electrical infrastructures used in these facilities are increasingly sophisticated and, in some cases, require a power compatible with an industrial use, which shows the enormous electrical load that supports the distribution network, which is not designed to supply this ‘ghost’ demand.

In this sense, the average consumption of a plantation corresponds to that of 80 homes and, in some areas with a high concentration of fraud, they represent up to 80% of the total electricity consumed in the area.

Data from the Ministry of the Interior indicate that, since 2015, seizures of marijuana and cannabis plants in Spain have experienced strong increases of between 150% and 305%, especially from 2019. The Annual Survey on Drugs indicates that In 2020, more than 1.7 million cannabis plants were seized -compared to 724,611 in 2016- and before the end of 2021 that figure had been far exceeded.


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