Development of a Long-range technology based power theft monitoring and control system.
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Uganda presently experiences rampant power theft and vandalism within the electricity distribution network in some regions of the country. About 16.4 % of the total power that Umeme Ltd, the main power distribution company, gets from the transmission network is lost through power theft and vandalism. This leads to a revenue loss of above Shs. 100 billion annually affecting the energy subsector and the economy at large. These losses have always been passed over to honest consumers indirectly at the time of electricity purchase. Since domestic consumer loads are metered, most of the power theft cases involve meter tampering and destruction to bypass the meter and alter its coding nature. The utility company has actively been employing human resources to manually monitor these meters even when no issues are detected. This comes with high administrative and management costs. The main objective of this study was to design and evaluate a power theft monitoring and detection control system using principles of the system development life cycle. Such a system would aid the utility company in detecting unauthorized activities occurring at the remote power meter. The system design consists of both hardware and software architecture parts. The hardware comprises of two ATmega 328P processors housing the system program logic, a metering unit to measure voltage and current, a sensing unit to detect tampering, a relay module to automatically switch ON and OFF customer loads and a long-range wireless transceiver. The transceiver picks the signal from the site and transmits it to the utility’s database. The software part consists of a windows operating system running an Apache web server, MYSQL database, and Python scripting language. These carry out the database management functions for storage, modification, and logging of tamper data. The software also contains a C++ compiler for coding the processors. A prototype was developed based on a long-range wireless transmission technology operating on a 433-MHz an unlicensed frequency spectrum band. It demonstrated the capability to detect inconsistencies at the meter, read the type of tampering, its location, meter I.D number, date, and time of occurrence of the event. The system was also able to automatically shut down the meter and trigger an alert to the utility’s control office and an area technician during tampering. This approach can be adopted by utility companies to curb power theft and reduce revenue leakage.