Sensors stop energy thieves

David Lawrence

Energy theft is a serious problem around the world that is not going away anytime soon.

A recent Forbes magazine article, “Electricity Theft: A Bigger Issue Than You Think”, states that energy theft in the U.S. alone is estimated at $6 billion U.S. dollars per year. A business case from a utility in Canada, BC Hydro, claims that electricity theft cost them at least 850 GWh or approximately $100 million U.S. dollars per year. In some countries, energy loss due to theft is estimated at over 35%.

A cost effective approach to energy theft detection is being used to combat this problem. ABB has developed a sensor that can be attached to the low voltage side of distribution transformers to measure the baseline power being delivered to the grid. Comparing this information to customer billing data can be used to detect possible fraud in energy consumption.

ABB DistribuSense sensors are attached to the low voltage side of distribution transformers to measure the baseline power being delivered to the grid.

The ABB DistribuSense low voltage sensor utilizes a split-core current transformer to measure current and a voltage clamp to measure voltage. Both voltage and current measurements are then fed into any standard meter which works with a utility’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) to provide a complete, remote energy theft detection system. The entire system can be efficiently installed in just minutes.

Getting real-time, remote situational awareness of the electrical grid including detecting energy theft is all part of the move toward a smarter grid.  ABB’s DistribuSense sensors are an important part of that transformation.


DistribuSense low voltage sensor
About the author

David Lawrence

I am a manager of the smart grid solutions project in ABB’s medium voltage business unit, based in the US. Over the last 3 years, my focus has been on energy sector distribution network optimization and reliability. This work includes medium voltage sensor development, feeder meter integration, and distributed application development to support FDIR, VVC, and CVR functionality
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  • Abhijeet Patil

    It is very helpful information, b.coz in India energy thieves is very big issue.

    If Indian electrical companies will install “ABB DistribuSense sensors” They can save a lot of energy

    • Rex Arul

      Abhijeet Patil

      Good point.

      Yes, pilferage of power is a serious problem in India, where the AT&D (Aggregated Transmission and Distribution Losses) are extremely high and remain as one of the highest in the world, with estimates hovering around 30-40%. A major reason behind those numbers is undoubtedly pilferage of power.

      As you have rightly pointed out, technology and innovations like “ABB DistribuSense sensors” can help stanch pilferage of power. However, that is just one part of the equation. However, if enforcement does not keep up with detection, then that is not helpful.

      “The Electricity Act of 2003” (India), passed by the Indian Parliament, specifically addresses this issue by providing utility companies and the State-run electricity boards to prosecute offenders using civil and criminal remedies. Yet, how many offenders have been prosecuted since this law was passed? Not many (with the exception of a few high profile cases at the North Delhi Power Limited’s service-territory).

      “The Electricity Act of 2003” (India) had specifically distinguished between unauthorized use of electricity without a dishonest intent (Section 126) and deliberate theft of electricity with an intent to steal (Section 135).

      Some conservative estimates suggest that New Delhi alone loses about 45% of its power to theft. Wow! That is like filling a tank full of gas, only to realize that before even I shift my gear, it is dropped down to a meager ½ tank.

      So, enforcement of electricity laws will go a long way in curtailing power-pilferage. When the state of West Bengal became the first to enunciate its own laws (electricity is a concurrent subject, as per the Constitution of India, so the individual states are within their powers to pass laws to regulate electricity) to curtail power-theft, it reported a double-digit percentage reduction in power losses due to theft.

      Therefore, besides detection (technology), what is more urgently needed is effective enforcement of prevailing electricity laws, to stanch the bleeding losses of electricity, in countries like India. Technology will play a strong role in guiding such an enforcement.

      • 10 points awarded for the expression "pilferage of power". Excellent. :)

        • Rex Arul

          Thanks a lot, @Gavin Hudson. Appreciate it :)

  • Sheena Siddiqui

    what is meant by baseline power?