3 September 2016

How Big Data Is Going To Stop Power Theft In Rural India

September 01, 2016

The Rural Electrification Corporation is planning to install equipment that will transmit usage data from metres at each of the country’s 100,000 rural feeder stations,which will identify spots where power theft is rampant.

The biggest problem for discoms in India, arguably, is what are called Aggregated Technical and Commercial losses (AT&C). As Aashish Chandorkar says in this piece, “transmitted power is lost partly due to technical reasons over the power networks, but mostly because of thefts and people using illegal, unpaid-for hooks to divert available power to their homes and establishments.” Some states lose as much as 50 percent of power transmitted to AT&C losses. This Mint report claimsthat in India, ‘regional distributors lose almost 23% of the electricity they buy through theft, unmetered usage and dissipation through old wires’. 

How can discoms decrease or prevent AT&C losses?

If discoms knew just where the AT&C losses are occurring (and also where the losses are likely to happen in future) it would help them take preventive measures in anticipation. 

Good News

The good news is that something to that effect is soon to happen in rural India, as the government turns to villages to look for ‘missing’ power. 

As mentioned in the aforementioned Mint report, ‘the Rural Electrification Corp. plans to install equipment that will transmit usage data from metres at each of the country’s 100,000 rural feeder stations’. This data, then, will be streamed live to the public. In fact, an entirely new smartphone app would serve as the platform. 

As Chandorkar says , ‘Analysing previous power usage patterns, creating hypotheses and understanding the relationship between theft (dependent variables) and events like marriages, festivals, ghettos of political clout and so on (influencing variables), can be a big boost to discoms.’

With the installation of sensors at literally the last mile of power consumption they will now be able to identify spots where power leakage or theft is rampant. Since all this data will be publicly available it forces the discoms (and the political authorities who hold them back) to act against theft. Next time there is a big political rally in your village and the local politician chooses to steal power instead of paying for it there will be a way for you to nail him. All you may have to do is to use your mobile phone.

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