Although it has a technically acceptable electricity transmission system, Chittagong has distribution system losses that are a concern to BPDB. These losses arise from defective meter installations, theft of electricity by manipulation or bypass of the meters, inaccuracies in the meter reading process, invoicing errors and direct tapping of the power lines by the consumers. The financial status of the utility is also impacted by the refusal of many customers to pay their bills – resulting in only a small part of the invoiced consumption being collected, often with considerable delay.
The project aims to reduce non-technical losses in several of the feeder areas with the worst problems and to ensure 100 percent cash collection in advance with a better service to consumers. The project will provide BPDB with experience in introducing prepayment metering into Bangladesh. It will highlight the technical, organisational and personnel aspects that need to be considered during the introduction of a prepayment system, and also clarify the acceptability of the system and vending process with BPDB’s end customers.
The benefits from the project are expected to include significant reduction in non-technical losses and in illegal activities of customers of the power utility. Errors in the meter reading process will be eliminated and improved cash flow will result in more timely payments leading to higher revenues. Use of the tariff and load limit facilities that can be provided by modern meters will change the consumer usage pattern and so reduce peak demand.
The project is being run as a pilot for both prepayment and ROM (Rehabilitate-Operate-Maintain) project concepts. It will run for an initial period of five years in three of the 11 kV feeders in the Chittagong area. It includes the provision and installation of prepayment meters, vending stations and a system management station. It also includes rehabilitation of the power distribution infrastructure in these areas and the installation of check meters on each distribution transformer. Energy audit procedures will cross-check the energy measured on the check meters against the total of the energy measured by the consumer meters. After the system has been operated and maintained by the contractor for a five-year period, it will be transferred to BPDB.
The project has funding from the Federal Republic of Germany in the form of a grant from KfW Bank. Consultants to BPDB for the project are Fichtner, Germany and UDS, South Africa.
The minimum requirements that were generated for the project included:
- Network refurbishment and rehabilitation
- Revenue protection features
- Choice of slab or time-of-use (TOU) tariffs
- Capability to restrict a customer to an agreed demand
- Use of keypad technology
- Prepayment and postpayment capability
- Single phase and three phase prepayment meters.
After a thorough tender process, the contract was awarded to PRI Ltd (UK) for its world renowned Liberty Online Prepayment System. PRI was selected because of its expertise in revenue protection and because it is able to offer a comprehensive product portfolio along with expertise in service management. The Liberty System meets the key requirement of TOU capability. In addition to the minimum requirements for the project, PRI’s Liberty meters provide meter displays that show remaining credit in Taka rather than kWh units.
Keith Galatis of UDS, the prepayment expert for the project, said: “I am impressed with PRI’s elegant solutions for implementation of the turnkey project with efficient deployment of delayed tariffs and their capability of deploying complex slab or time-of-use tariffs in prepayment mode.”
PRI teamed with KCJAL, a local partner, as the operating contractor to manage the network rehabilitation programme, the meter installation and vending system.
PRI Premier meters are being installed on feeders, on distribution transformers and at HT customer sites for energy balance monitoring.
Energy fed by BPDB to the 11 kV feeder points is being purchased by the operating contractor at a fixed rate. It is then sold to the consumer at agreed slab and TOU tariff rates. The operating contractor is proceeding with network refurbishment and rehabilitation work to help reduce technical and non-technical losses. This includes re-running of wiring to avoid sags, tidying connections, maintenance of distribution transformers and load balancing. It also includes tracing of illegal connections and installing new meters where required. Time-stamped readings returned from the meters in authenticated billing codes will be used as part of a regular energy audit – where energy measured at consumer meters is compared against that measured at the feeder points.
The Liberty meters provide comprehensive information about electricity consumption – giving an indication of how much money is being spent on electricity in Taka per day and how many days of credit remain at current consumption rates. The system includes Friendly Credit so consumers are not cut off during evenings or weekends, or on public holidays when the vending stations are not open.
Consumers are expressing satisfaction with the friendliness of the system and are now using it to help to monitor, plan and control their demand and their monthly expenses for electricity.
Public awareness campaigns are underway via TV, radio, newspapers, leaflets and roadshows. Individual customer visits are being made to provide advice on how to use the system, how to keep peak load down, and to agree contracted load limits according to the consumer’s capability. After 2,000 conventional meters were replaced with the Liberty meters in one of the feeder areas, BPDB observed a 30 percent increase in revenue for the billing month. The customers are now more aware of their consumption through the user friendly features and are now conserving energy. In one area, approximately 90 percent of consumers have replaced their conventional lamps with energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps to reduce their energy consumption and their electricity bills.
A. M. Khurshedul Alam, project director for BPDB, commented that “employing such a system will greatly increase consumer satisfaction and the good project work will help the utility to improve on present high system losses.”
Robert Samson, senior project manager of Fichtner, said: “We expect PRI’s Liberty system will make life easier for consumers and will bring significant benefits for BPDB. I am impressed by the consumer awareness programme that PRI is running to create understanding of the new system.”