Bright as a new penny, copper is the most widely used metal throughout all parts of the electric power grid. While steel and aluminum are also used, copper shines as the number one metal of choice.
Each kind of metal conducts electricity in different ways. The ability of a substance to conduct electricity is measured in terms of “resistance,” a word that describes how easy or difficult it is for electricity to move through it. The lower the resistance of a wire, the better it conducts electricity. Electricity flows through copper easily because it has a lower resistance than many other metals.
Another feature of copper makes it especially desirable. Copper’s low “resistance” means that as electricity flows through it, the copper does not overheat. Pound for pound, copper is an excellent choice for electric utilities looking for a dependable metal that will perform year after year.
Copper truly shines when it comes to keeping the lights on—except when thieves interfere.
In 2008 in South Carolina, thieves ruined a $50,000 transformer while stealing only $50 worth of copper.
And yet thieves continue to overestimate the potential gain, or consider the deadly risk. Since 2005, at least seven people have died while attempting to steal copper in Kentucky.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau found more than 24,000 reports of copper thefts during the past three years. Coming into contact with energized copper—or any part of the electric power grid—can be a deadly experience for anyone without the proper training, equipment, or authorization.