It seems that fraud and energy theft due to meter tampering is getting worse in some regions of our planet (Earth). Maybe you recall the post about technical- and non-technical losses.
For revenue protection, each utility or power company is doing a dedicated loss statistic. The loss due to meter tamper is part of it. Many users still don’t understand that they are stealing money from their neighbours when they do a tamper. The utility has no choice but to increase the cost per unit bases on their loss calculation.
I’ve heard about cases where the loss is exceeding 50%. To be very conservative, I would say that all loss greater than 12% comes from theft. So, if everyone is honest, the power bill could be reduced a lot.
But this will not happen.
What to do?
You as utility need to capture as much tamper as possible. The latest developments of energy meters have a high focus on tamper protection. We are testing our meters under all known and several unknown tamper conditions. As this blog is public, we can not disclose here what we are capturing. We don’t want to give tamper guidelines. Not all meter manufacturers have considered fraud detection as important.
Basically you need to prevent local access to the meter by using enclosures and/or a split meter type. Then you need to implement a proper sealing scheme. You can also seal the optical port. In addition we recommend to do random installation checks together with portable test equipment.
To prevent tamper in the most efficient way you can:
Setup as STS prepayment solution
With STS payment you have two advantages.
a) You have the money first
b) The energy meter will disconnect the customer in case of a tamper event
Disadvantage is that you still have to suffer from indirect tamper (on the way to the customer).
Setup an advanced metering infrastructure AMI
A good AMI system can provided you with a bunch of tamper-related information. In addition the meters can connect/disconnect by remote. The meter internal tamper detection logics are also in place, so the meter is disconnecting independent from the system operation. The system receives an tamper event with time-stamp and cause.
Your customer service center will know the case before the customer has made the call.
AMI systems can also balance the customer consumption versus a master meter at each distribution transformer. Then you will know the problem areas in your network for indirect tamper.
Finally you can balance all master meters vs. the generated or purchased energy to have dedicated metrics for the line loss or to reduce the technical losses.
Combine STS with AMI
This solution is combining the secure STS payment with all the advantages of an AMI system. The tokens are generated by the utility security module and transferred by 4G or power line communication. There is no need for the customer to buy a physical token. After payment the meter is topped up by remote. The payment itself can be still done at a vending station or more convenient with a mobile phone APP.
I wonder what is your utility strategy to reduce tamper. Maybe you’d like to share your thoughts. In any case, if you have questions on metering solutions and tamper reduction please contact us.
Thank you for reading and stay safe.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.