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The magnitude of operational losses in the supply of electricity in Nigeria has been growing significantly. Issues of theft and illegal connection pose major challenges in the energy distribution. This has greatly worsened the current electricity supply in the country; hence, the need for the design of a robust system for identifying or detecting illegal electricity consumption.
In this study, an Automated Remote Power Management System (ARPMS) was developed for detection of meter bypassing, tampering and illegal load shedding. ARPMS consisted of embedded microcontroller, Current and Voltage Sensors (CVS), and Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) module for effective detection of meter tempering. The microcontroller was embedded with microprograms for task regulation and control functions. The CVSs were used to monitor and report deviations from the normal signals. The GSM module was used for remote communication and control. The microcontroller was programmed using embedded C. A user-study experiment, which involved fifty (50) purposively selected electrical engineers, was carried out to evaluate the proposed system. The engineers subjected the system to different scenarios of bypass. A structured questionnaire guide was used to capture responses from the engineers. Descriptive analysis was conducted on the performance data of the ARPMS from the engineers.
The result showed that ARPMS had 100% efficiency, 96% acceptance and a remote communication index of 0.99. This showed that ARPMS had high capability for detecting meter tempering. The result also showed that the real time ARPMS was able to evaluate the amount of consumed energy by a building through remote monitoring and control of domestic energy meter, and gave the information about the meter reading to the utility company through Short Message Services (SMS). ARPMS provided regular status of the meter on a predefined interval, and displayed user’s account update in real time. This system also detected electricity power bypass by consumers. The ARPMS controlled technology demonstrated the capability of providing a better mechanism for collecting power consumption bills in advance.
In conclusion, an efficient ARPMS for preventing power theft has been developed. It also used GSM based technology to perform billing related processes at all times. The system is therefore recommended for electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) for efficient management of energy consumption and prepaid billing.
Keywords: Automated Remote, Monitoring, Microcontroller, GSM Communication, Embedded C
1.1 Background to the Study
Electricity is very crucial to the socio-economic and technological development of every country. One of the indices used to measure the development of an economy is uninterrupted power supply. It is widely accepted that there is a strong correlation between the availability of electricity and socio-economic development. The supply of electricity in Nigeria incurs substantial capital. The enormity of these costs is growing astronomically across the globe. To decipher the unlawful users of electricity in a bid to enhance the economy of utility company, efficiency and protection of the grid, a novel procedure for scrutinizing electricity usage patterns of customers and recognizing illegal consumers is proposed and implemented. Nigeria electric power network operator, electricity Distribution Companies of Nigeria (DISCOs) has for a long period of time been combating the problem of revenue collation. This is majorly attributed to the fact that electricity bills are sent to consumers after consumption. Consumers are usually unwilling to pay electricity bills as a result of epileptic nature of the electricity supplied which is not usually mirrored in the bills which are basically estimates of power usage and not usually commensurate to the true amount of electricity consumed by the respective consumer.
The low reliability of electric power supply has little bearing on the network operator because whether power is provided or not, in the post-paid method, the monthly electricity bills are still sent to consumers. Hence, the user bears the cost of generating power for their personal usage as well as that of the electricity that was never provided by DISCOs. Due to the enormity of the debt accrued by customers, the network operator initiated a cash collection policy named Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) which involves collecting monies owed through private establishments. This failed to give the anticipated results; hence DISCOs came up with the digital pre-paid meter in 2006 whose operation is somewhat synonymous with the loading of an airtime voucher in the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) handset. If power is available and the pre-paid meter is loaded with units, the loaded unit diminishes only when the load is connected and stops when power is interrupted. In the last decade, smart cards evolved from basic memory cards to complex systems on chips with a processing power that can be expanded. This became an avenue for the invention of many applications used in the world today. The smart card, an intelligent token, is a credit card sized plastic card embedded within an integrated circuit chip. A smart card usually consists of a Read Only Memory (ROM) or flash memory, Electrical Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EEPROM) and a Central Processing Unit (CPU). The smart card operating system controls access to data on the card. The card operating system does not only make the smart card secure for access control, but also has the capability to store a private key for a public key infrastructure system.
Recently, the industry has come up with 32-bit smart card processors having more than 400Kbytes of EEPROM, and a memory management and protection unit serving as a firewall for the hardware. This hardware firewall enables secure separation of adjacent applications, as well as being the basis for secure downloading of applications. The self-containment of smart card makes it somewhat attack proof as it does not need to be relied upon potentially attack susceptible external resources. Due to this feature, smart cards are often used in diverse applications which require strong security and authentication. In addition to information security, smart cards achieve greater physical security of services and equipment, because a smart card limits access to only authorized users.
Furthermore, the smart card can be used as a credit/debit bank card which makes it relevant for e-commerce applications. The multi-application smart card, along with the advent of open platform smart card operating systems, brings the only viable option for handling multiple electronic transactions these days. It is a cost effective secure way to manage transactions electronically Manufacturers, issuers and users have come to appreciate the value of one card that manages multi-applications. A multi-application card will be able to amongst other things do an automatic update of new services as well as existing applications, change and store user profiles for each application and be usable on a range of devices. One of the most valuable applications is in using the smart card to buy energy. Recently, the portal technology has been playing an increasing role in computing. Service providers are rolling out portals to allow users to create customized web sites that display exactly the information on the Card and transformer. Corporations are rolling out portals to provide employees and business partner's customizable access to corporate information. For web enabled energy services, and with the introduction of home networking technology, power companies and service providers can offer value-added services to the homes, like energy management, to generate additional revenue as well as to increase convenience and loyalty. In this research work, we propose a novel and simple prototype of a web enabled smart card based solution for controlling the consumption of electricity in a home environment. The proposed system can calculate the total voltage consumption and the structure health condition of the transformer as well as the total voltage distributed by the transformer. For a while now, energy conservation has been a topical issue. In practical terms, people use much more power than what they actually need and that is responsible for the consequent huge loss of energy.
Moreover, the continuous increase in the universal energy prices has led to a colossal economical loss. Thus, we are proposing a prepaid electricity smart card based system that will enable people to buy specific quantum of energy for use only when needed. People can subscribe for this service and recharge their accounts through the Mobile Phone. The power meter used in this study interrupts the controller at a rate of 0.75Wph based on the particular tariff used and the amount of power consumption needed, the correct amount of money to be loaded into the card can be easily calculated and programmed into the chip. The unique feature about this system is that the electric utility in the home environment can be accessed remotely from the supplier server. The study provides people with the opportunity of buying electricity in advance, using the prepaid electricity cards. Thus, people can use only the amount of power they really require.
The proposed power management system will benefit the end customer as well as the electric utility in that the customer can recharge his account wirelessly from his home using Mobile Communication Module and the status of meter is indicated through a Short Message Services (SMS). The device will show the remaining balance so that the user knows how much he has consumed and can plan ahead and know when he needs to recharge the account and moreover, this strategy provides the utility companies the avenue to collect the expenses from customers in advance. Thus, they will no longer have to deal with late payments or non-payment of bills by the customers. This also helps to reduce electricity theft through bypass.
Losses that occur during generation can be measured, but Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses cannot be quantified completely from the end where information is sent. According to Depuru (2012), distribution losses in several countries have been reported to be over 30%. Substantial quantity of losses proves that Non-Technical Losses (NTL) are involved in power distribution. Total losses during T&D can be evaluated from the information like total load and the total energy billed, using established standards and formulae. In general, NTL are as a result of factors external to the power system. Electricity theft constitutes a major chunk of the NTL.
Electricity theft can be defined as, using electricity from the utility without a contract or valid obligation to alter its measurement. The world over, T&D losses are more than the total installed generation capacity of countries such as Germany, the UK, or France. It is estimated that around the world, utilities lose more than $25 billion every year to illegal consumption of electricity. It has also been discovered that the illegal consumption of power by the local business sector is on the increase. The quality of the power generated, transmitted, and distributed has an impact on the power system components and customer appliances. Due to the illegal consumption of electricity, estimating the overall load in real time becomes very difficult (Depuru, Wang, &Devabhaktuni, 2012).
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