KUCHING: Power theft by cryptocurrency miners is on the rise in Sarawak, with 95 cases in total being recorded in the state since 2018.
According to a statement from Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), 55 of those cases were recorded in Miri, followed by 34 in Kuching, five in Sibu and one in Bintulu. This year alone Kuching, Sibu and Miri recorded five cases each so far, while Bintulu registered one case.
SEB said all these cases had been investigated together with the Electrical Inspectorate Unit (EIU) of the Ministry of Utilities.
“In all of these cases, all unsafe wirings and tampered meters had been removed and seized as evidence. Police reports had been lodged and the premises owner would be called to assist in the investigation under Section 33(5) of the Electricity Ordinance.
“Stealing electricity is a criminal offence that carries a penalty of up to RM100,000 and/or five years’ jail, upon conviction,” said SEB in a statement yesterday.
It warned the public that power theft was dangerous and could damage properties, which was what struck a cryptocurrency mining centre at Happy Garden in Bintulu, which was destroyed in a fire on Nov 10.
SEB said the inspection team had found tampered wirings hidden in the ceiling to avoid detection.
“These wirings were used to tap electricity supply from the main incoming cable, by-passing the meter – resulting in electricity consumption used not being registered at all.”
SEB also said quick action by the firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to neighbouring houses and causing any loss of life.
“Cryptocurrency mining servers normally operate 24 hours and they need to be constantly cooled and ventilated to avoid overheating. At an average, this energy-intensive activity can cost RM10,000 a month or more, depending on the number of servers at the premises.
“In April this year, cryptocurrency mining operators operating at rented houses had led to nine power interruptions in Pujut and its surrounding areas in Miri.
“All nine operators had their wirings tampered with, and had their supply coming from the mains – by-passing the meter.
“The energy-intensive activity caused overloading and supply interruptions to the system. These intermittent power interruptions had caused inconveniences to many customers in the area,” said SEB.
It also said despite numerous warnings on the dangers of power theft, there were still those who disregarded safety for their own quick gains.
“Sarawak Energy continuously reminds customers not to trust any service provider claiming to be able to reduce electricity bills or allow premises owners enjoy unlimited usage of electricity through meter-tampering.
“Power theft is a crime that endangers lives and can damage electrical appliances, which may lead to fires.
“We will continue to actively carry out meter inspection activities throughout Sarawak with assistance from all relevant authorities, especially the Ministry of Utilities and the police,” assured SEB.
Members of the public are encouraged to report any incident of power theft, including the details of power theft service providers, by calling SEB’s customer care centre on 1-300-288-3111, or sending emails to [email protected]