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View Points | March 2016

How to avoid power theft

It´s difficult today to imagine a world without power. Our incredibly connected world runs exclusively on power - whether we are talking about our light bulbs, our Internet connections, larger factories and industries, or even our phone networks.

This incredible fuel that practically drives us - is something we often take for granted. Yes, we do try to reduce our power bills and, therefore, try and avoid wastage of power - not keeping lights on for longer than necessary and keeping an eye on large consumptions of power like through air conditioners and geysers. However, these are just a few ways we can control our consumption of power. There are others, often ones that we are not directly aware of. For example, power theft - an extremely common way we are losing power that is both harmful to you as well as the power companies. Here´s how you can keep a check on it.

From a technical point of view, one of the biggest losses of power takes place through Aggregate Technical and Commercial losses. In 2012-2013, more than 23 per cent of the total power generated in India was wasted during transmission and distribution (T&D). A lot of factors like political interference in terms of free power supply or subsidised power supply to agricultural users, lack of consumer education, inefficient use of electricity, and most importantly theft contributed to this figure.

But what can we do to minimise this figure? One of the easiest ways is by improving metering efficiency, and to properly account for and audit billing and collection.

Employing agencies
One of the best ways to minimise power theft can actually be undertaken by the government themselves. Power companies can employ the services of private security agencies to minimise theft and recovery of dues. This includes functions like meter reading, bill distribution, surveillance of the grid, recovery of dues, and enforcement to address theft and maintenance.

Another angle is when enforcement teams address ongoing theft by undertaking raids and booking cases for recovery. Dedicated teams are deployed for recovery of dues by persuading thorough tele-callers and field executives.

An important aspect is meter reading. The billing process is a very vulnerable area, where the chances of malpractices are very high. Bringing in private vendors who can take over the professional function of meter reading, billing and bill distribution (including adopting computerised meter reading, data acquisition, data validation and authentication, failsafe billing process and bill printing) goes a long way in creating transparency for this sector. Today, some vendors have achieved more than 99 per cent of meter data reading and 100 per cent bill distribution on time for better revenue management.

Companies can also look at the establishment of systems that measure, read and analyse energy consumption. These Advanced Metering Infrastructure solution (AMI) systems can be defined as extensions of simpler Automated Meter Reading (AMR) systems. The AMI always communicates two-way and comprises the whole range of metering devices, software, and communication media and data management system. This finally leads to an automatic smart meter - a device that with monitoring means less pilferage. Smart meters relay information immediately back and forth allowing companies to keep a constant check on consumption and any anomalies. Readings can be taken remotely and you can also connect telephones and computers to it.

The last option to minimise theft is by creating smart homes, through smart grids. This results in an integrated solution for all three sections of power system - generation, transmission and distribution. This minimises AT&C loss, provides intelligent load balancing, allows for smart switching and transmission and smart distribution of network to provide quality power. It´s done through smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources and energy efficiency resources. Although it sounds like something into the future, this is one of the most effective ways to avoid power theft.

Smart systems
A smart home would include features like fair load management (remote connection and disconnection of power and appliances), internet access and multimedia, security and alarm systems, IP phone/door phone, aged or elderly people assistance, home automation, building access control, building manager communication, budget and consumption monitoring and integration of renewable energy. All of this is available in ADOMIS based on broadband over power line technology. It is used to develop a model ´Smart Home´ to showcase these various features. These result in Home-area networks (HANs) that give consumers a sense of empowerment over their electricity consumption.

Author: Ramesh Iyer, Vice-Chairman & CEO, Topsgrup.

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