LAHORE: Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) is planning to embark on a drive to replace decades-old electricity meters with smart meters in an attempt to control tempering and theft – the main reasons behind the piling circular debt and increase in tariffs.
In the first phase, Lesco will install smart meters in two circles – fifth circle covering Gulberg, Defence Housing Authority and adjacent posh localities, and seventh circle covering Samanabad, Gulshan Ravi and adjacent areas.
“We believe that cases of meter tempering and power theft are higher in posh areas than middle and low-income localities as the former consume more electricity,” said Abdul Rehman, Director Operations of Lesco, while talking to The Express Tribune.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing funding for the project as installation of smart meters is quite expensive. At present, both USAID and Lesco are conducting a feasibility study, which will determine the project cost.
After assessing results in the first two circles, Lesco will extend its drive to other circles as well, though it may find it tough to replace old meters with efficient ones in all the five districts that it covers.
Recently, the power distributing company installed smart meters as a pilot project in an area of the Walled City named Dehli Gate. It was a small-scale project, but results were encouraging.
“After putting in place smart meters, our losses in Dehli Gate has come down to 7% from the previous 17%,” Rehman said.
The concept of smart meters is not new in Pakistan as power distributing companies including Lesco have installed such meters on few of their feeders to determine how much electricity is generated and consumed.
A smart meter is an electrical meter that records consumption of energy and communicates that information every day to the utility for monitoring and billing.
Such an advanced metering infrastructure differs from traditional automatic meter reading in that it enables two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Unlike home energy monitors, smart meters can gather data for remote reporting.
Rehman believes that updating the meter system will help the company reduce line losses and theft to a satisfactory level.
At present, a special drive against electricity theft is going on and is giving satisfactory results.
According to Lesco statistics, data of 6,000 consumers have been examined since July to find cases of meter tempering and theft, of which first information reports have been lodged against only 1,250 consumers and 700 have been arrested.
“The numbers are quite disappointing keeping in view the total 3.5 million consumers of Lesco, meaning data of less than 1% of consumers have been checked so far,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2013.