Tackling Electricity Theft in India

Indian government has announced an ambitious plan of setting up hundreds of smart cities across the country. However, no city can be called a smart city unless government can provide uninterrupted power. One of the major reasons behind long power cuts and huge losses for electricity distribution companies is electricity theft. India is one of the worst affected countries and controlling theft is imperative to provide uninterrupted power to the entire country.

Recently Indian government announced that it will spend more than Rs. 25,000 crore to tackle the problem of electricity theft. The amount of money reflects the magnitude of the problem. The money will be largely spent on upgrading electrical infrastructure and new metering across the country.

The decision to invest in advanced metering and infrastructure up gradation is commendable and shows that the government is serious about tackling this problem. This opportunity of upgrading the metering infrastructure should be appropriately utilized to put in place Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that can provide real time consumption data and smart data analytics can be leveraged to identify abnormal consumption trends and possible theft and fraud. Previously, when all the electricity meters for Delhi were replaced (by Tata Power and Reliance Power), the meters that were installed were pulse based meter. These meters internally detect (and store) the consumption along with some theft parameters that can be read by an external device. At this moment, one needs to go a step further to collect high resolution data (at least a reading every 15 minutes) to identify many more opportunities of thefts than those possible by the metering hardware. Examples of such thefts include sudden (and periodic) variation in power consumption, high neutral current, negative energy etc.

However, when such analytics platform (for theft detection) are put in place, two key considerations that should be kept in mind are:

1. Efficient data management – This will result in large volume of data being collected. As an example, Delhi has more than 40 lakhs consumers. With 10 electrical parameters collected every 15 minutes, this effectively implies approx. 16 GB of data collected every day from the state of Delhi only. Such large volumes of data need to be efficiently managed for any meaningful analytics to be done.

2. Who owns this data? – This collected data could have some privacy implications. As an example, this data can tell about regular times when there is no one at home (and hence the electricity consumption is zero) thus making the home susceptible to theft. The systems should be put in place such that the user (whose data is being collected) has an easy access to her own data and can control who else can see that data.

Zenatix Solutions, founded by alumni from IIT Delhi, is an energy data analytics company whose mission is to bring efficiency in electricity distribution and consumption. Zenatix provides an energy monitoring and analytics solution that can interface with any AMI and run advanced analytics to understand the distribution and consumption pattern. Coming from a rigorous 2 years research, Zenatix has the right platform that can handle millions of data points every day from thousands of metering points. Zenatix has developed efficient machine learning algorithms that mine the collected data to look for patterns that can then help identify possible theft and fraud. Further, Zenatix can define appropriate access policies such that the collected data is shared only with the entities that are entitled to legally access the data.

We think Zenatix can be an ideal partner in the government’s aim in cutting down the electricity theft and providing uninterrupted power to each and every consumer.