EDL tests smart meters to prevent electricity theft [The Daily Star, Beirut, Lebanon]
(Daily Star, The (Beirut, Lebanon) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 17--BEIRUT -- In a bid to crack down on electricity theft, the Energy Ministry has started testing advanced meters that can be monitored remotely by Electricite du Liban.
"This is a pilot project and if this project succeeds then we will install 1.2 million smart meters across the country. The good thing about the smart meters is that they can be monitored from the command-and-control room and without the need to send bill collectors to examine these meters closely," a senior official at the Energy Minister told The Daily Star Monday.
The Energy Ministry signed a contract with three service providers to improve electricity production, increase bill collection and drastically reduce waste and theft.
Initially, the service providers will test 3,000 smart meters before eventually installing them all over the country.
The installation of the 1.2 million smart meters will take around two years, provided that all parties in Lebanon facilitate the work of the technical teams.
"The center which will monitor the meters from Electricite du Liban's building can read very accurately the real consumption of electricity for each household," the source said. "There is no need to send an employee to read the meter and then report his reading to EDL."
But the source hinted that the actual purpose of these smart meters was to prevent what he called "foul play" by some of the part-time employees, who may turn in inaccurate readings from the current meters.
There have been numerous complaints that some EDL contract workers have deliberately tampered with meters in return for bribes.
Electricity theft is major concern for EDL, which has tried in vain to combat these practices.
Electricity theft and technical losses are costing the Treasury hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
"We don't want the bill collector to put the electricity consumption of each house the way he wants. Some people tamper with the old meters to show consumption below the actual amount used. These practices should come to and an end and the smart meters are one way to do it," the source explained.
EDL and the service providers refuse to give more technical details about the smart meters to prevent people from developing new techniques to tamper with them.
Out of the $2 billion annual losses incurred by EDL, nearly 15 percent is due to theft and technical losses and the remainder is due to the high cost of fuel.
Technical losses are non-theft losses from the distribution infrastructure.
The smart meters are very similar to prepaid or postpaid mobile cards, which means that once a consumer misses the date of payment, the control room can automatically cut off power to a house or office without sending a worker out.
But there are serious doubts that EDL and the three service providers will be able to install these meters all over the country, especially since some areas consider themselves above the law.
"We are not involved in politics. We will carry out our duties based on the contracts we signed. It is up to the politicians to sort out the problem of the areas that will try to block the installation of the smart meters," the source stressed.
Some sources said that some areas had prevented the technical teams from the service providers from testing the smart meters.
They added that if EDL and service providers succeeded in their endeavor, then this would be considered a blow to the owners of the private generators.
(c)2013 The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
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