The four-quadrant diagram in electricity metering

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When we talk about power we always need to indicate the direction and which sort of power.
We can have:

  • Active power, P
    Active power is expressed in watt (W). Sometimes this power is also called “real power”
    This is the power you are actually consuming.
  • Reactive power, Q
    Reactive power is expressed in volt-ampere reactive (var)
    This power is stored in components, then released again back to the source through the AC cycle. Capacitors and inductors do this.
  • Apparent power, S
    Apparent power is expressed in volt-ampere (VA)
    (RMS voltage times the RMS current). A power supply must be capable to output the full apparent power delivered to a circuit, not just the active power.

Quadrant I
Quadrant I is defined as an area where both powers flow positively. Both are delivered to the consumer load. In many cases the CLOU terminology is forward. The power factor is lagging, we have inductive influence.
The IEC literature is using the term import.
In this quadrant we have Import of active power and Import of reactive power.

Quadrant II
In quadrant II, reactive power is positive and active power flows negatively. In many cases the CLOU terminology is reversed. The IEC literature is using the term export.

Quadrant III
In quadrant III, reactive and active power flow negatively (both powers are received from the customer). This is also a export condition.

Quadrant IV
In quadrant IV, reactive power flows negatively, and active power flows positively. This is a import condition.

The interactive diagram below shows the relationship between the phase angle φ, apparent-, active- and reactive power respective energy.  The diagram is in accordance with clauses 12 and 14 of IEC 60375. Reference is the current vector (fixed on right-hand line, 0°). The phase angle φ between voltage V and current I is taken to be positive in the mathematical sense (counter clockwise).

Four Quadrant Simulation (IEC62053-23)

Geometric representation of active and reactive power



Thank you for taking a look.

8 Replies to “The four-quadrant diagram in electricity metering”

  1. Hi LaoRen,

    I’ve meter model CL730S1 on rented property shared by about 4 households.

    The electricity is supplied on a pre-paid facility. This is presenting challenges in terms of defining how much each household use power and consequently how much to contribute towards the cost. It is not possible to split meters unfortunately because of regulations.

    Is there a possibility to read and monitor usage via software that can track usage possibly per household? Pardon my English if my point is not clear for you, but hopefully you understand the issues of sharing one metered source in this regard.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      thank you for your question. A energy meter can only record the total consumption, in your case for all four households in sum. What you need is so called sub-metering. The prepaid meter still records the total units. You need to put four simple postpaid meter behind the prepaid meter. Any electrician can do this without utility approval. This meters are recording the consumption for each household individually. At the end of the month (or your billing period) you invoice the single households by reading the consumed units from each sub-meter. For four households it’s easy to do it manually. For larger sub-metering installations we have special meters with an interface and a software solution for meter reading.

    2. Hi LaoRen,

      Thank you for your informative reply.

      The solution has potential to help a significant number of households in my community.

      I’m not tech savvy in this respect as you might have noticed. Please kindle help me further if you can:
      (i)what is the cost of simple postpaid meters that you know are compatible with the meter model CL730S1 ?
      (ii)are the postpaid meters mounted strictly behind the main meter or can they be mounted separately in each household?
      (iii) you can send me details if you prefer direct to my email ; include details of the larger sub-metering solution as well.

      Thank you once again.

  2. Hi,
    I think I still a bit confused with how the wave is presented. In Q1, (current) lagging, the current in red should be on the right of the black voltage waveform, isn’t it?

    1. Hi Dan, thanks for your comment. Actually the x-axis is representing the continuous running time adjusted to the net-frequency. When we watch an oscilloscope screen and adjust the time domain to the net frequency we will see a static wave for voltage (black) and for current (red). As the current in Q1 is lagging, we see the current wave behind (left side) of the voltage wave. The easiest way to measure the time difference between voltage and current is to monitor the zero-crossings.

    1. Thank you for valuable input, Nick. Actually our diagram follows the IEC62053-23 definition, which is valid since the year 2003. The older engineers are still familiar with the representation shown in your link.

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