Corona and Power Theft

Power Theft and Corona

Till the year 2020, I’ve heard about only one type of Corona i.e. electrical corona. It is the glowing and audible discharge in an extreme local electric field causing the ionization and electrical breakdown of air adjacent. Corona is frequently visible in a slightly dark environment. There will be a slight heckling sound with increasing voltage.Tamperfinder had seen or rather heard corona at many locations in 220KV line from Sabarigiri Hydroelectric Project[Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd] to Theni Substation [Tamil Nadu Electricity Board],in India, the line passing through impenetrable  pristine forest in Western Ghats.

Those are thing of past. Now it’s the most frequently used word in every household across the world. Its spreading has caused all activities to a halt confining people to stay at home. COVID-19 is a new disease instigated by the corona virus that can affect lungs and airways of human being. It’s a global issue and countries across world trying their best effort to control it mainly by adopting social distancing. Power sector is also badly affected by COVID-19

Power Utilities have stopped distribution of electricity bills and meter reading activities few weeks back in view of the corona virus outbreak. If AMR[Automated Meter Reading]  is already implemented, this issue could be surmounted. But how many Discoms can boast of having implemented AMR fully? May be few in developed countries. The issue is different in third world countries especially in South Asia, where Power sector was under Government sector till few years back and updating technology was at a snail’s pace only due to financial issues.

Discoms are sensitizing its employees about ways to check the spread of corona virus and taking precautions. Giving out of power bills and meter reading are being stopped till further notice. Few Discoms issue provisional bill and encourage digital payment as counter collections have been stopped. However, procedures are being taken to make certain that steady power supply without compromising on the safety of workmen of Discoms and consumers. The Distribution companies are keen on functioning of call centres also. In the event of any one of the employees in call centre or control room getting affected by Covid-19, the entire system may go out of control. Parallel control room and call centres have already been  functioning or ready to function in many Discoms.For eg., in the New York Power Authority, employees move out  of the control room at the Niagara Power Plant near to the waterfall, are substituted by a cleaning squad that disinfects the stock of computer monitors and switch panels used to command the largest electricity generation station. Outside, medical team observes the temperature of employees coming in for the next shift and asks them a series of questions: Have they recently traveled out of the country? Do they have any symptoms of a respiratory infection? etc For employees who wheel the control rooms at the utility’s power plants, telecommuting is not an alternative. They must be on-site to ensure that electricity continues to flow to power grid.

Tamperfinder have observed a decade back that location of energy meter is a major criterion that determines the possibility of power theft especially in dwelling places. Most of the Power utilities are not able to provide Shielding boxes to energy meter to prevent perpetrators to some extent from performing Power theft. Though there will be a decline in Power theft consequent to introduction of AMR,the chances of Power theft will be more  on long run. If there is an uncertaininty about surprise inspection by power utilities or being caught, Power Theft will flourish.

If no utility person is observing a consumer, there will be a temptation, in fact, an invitation to tamper the meter and avoid paying the actual electricity bill. This would be more when publics are locked down with limited indoor activities at home other than entertainment electronics. This may lead to more electricity charge at limited income due to loss of working days in Covid-19 lock down days. If there is no close surveillance, chances of Power theft will be more. Hence the post Covid-19 period will be a challenge for power utilities across the world and expected to focus on this issue.

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