BC Hydro says elecricity theft at large marijuana grow-ops is costing an estimated $100 million a year. ((RCMP))

BC Hydro says the theft of electricity — mostly from marijuana grow operations — now costs $100 million every year.

Hydro spokesperson Cindy Verschoor said that's a significant increase from the estimated $30-million revenue loss from electricity theft in 2006, the last time Hydro calculated the loss.

She said it's because larger and more sophisticated grow ops are sucking more power each year.

"What the RCMP are telling us is the size and distribution of grow-ops is growing, as is the safety hazard associated with how they are stealing electricity."

Brian Cantera, who is with the RCMP's drug squad, said grow-ops are moving to more rural areas because of their remoteness and relative inaccessibility.

"In rural areas, what's also happened there is that the size of the grow-ops have increased and of course the larger they are, the more hydro consumption that's actually stolen," he said.

"In terms of hydro theft, every law-abiding citizen out there is having money realistically taken right out of their wallet."

Stolen electricity now represents about a three per cent increase in customers' hydro bills each year, Verschoor said.

In order to combat the loss, BC Hydro is hoping to sell the public on smart meters, which they hope to have in all B.C. homes by 2012.

Verschoor said the meters, which can record energy consumption on an hourly basis and transmit that information to BC Hydro, are one way to tackle power theft.  

"Smart meters are actually are part of an overall system that will help to modernize the grid and one of the benefits of that system is it will help us to identify theft and that's a significant benefit to our customers."

Verschoor said electricity theft is something all BC Hydro customers should be concerned about.

"The cost of theft is borne by all of us and when we reduce electricity theft, all customers benefit."