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IoT to help solve Nigerian power issues

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Kathy Gibson reports from Huawei Connect in Shanghai – Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with 173-million people, but a lack of power generation coupled with distribution challenges help to shackle the country’s economic prospects.
Now, an Internet of Things (IoT) system is being heralded as at least part of the solution to curb power loss while increasing collections.
Not only does the unstable power supply hamper economic growth, it has a direct knock-on effect of wasted spending. Nigerian manufacturers, traders and even families supplement the unstable power supply by using their own generators, spending about NGN3,5-trillion ($21,9-billion) in diesel and petrol to supplement or replace electricity supply.
As Nigeria’s economy grows, it places more demands on the power system but aging infrastructure means there is a high line loss rate – in fact the line loss rate can reach up to 40%.
Losses are not only caused by an unreliable grid; electricity theft is rampant, with 20% of consumers admitting that they steal power from a system that is poor in supervision and regulation.
These are some of the challenges faced by Nigeria’s largest power distributor IKEJA Electric, which also battles to collect its fees from business and consumers, with a payment delay often as long as three to four months, so consumers are often in arrears on their acouunts.
The problem is exacerbated by a low work efficiency rate. Meters are read manually, and there is no unified IT-based platform to handle service requirements like accounting, fault reporting and complaints.
IKEJA has deployed IoT and Huawei’s AMI solution to help it address these challenges. The system includes smart meters, the Huawei IoT gateway AR530 Series concentrators and an electricity operation and management system.
The company is able to achieve 100% successful meter reading over the Huawei-developed Hi-PLC technology that offers a rate of 20-times that of narrowband PLC. This enabled realtime bi-directional metering services, allowing for full data collection as well as full fee control on both current and future smart grids.
The AMI solution includes professional electricity operation services, so IKEJA is able to build an IT-based operation platform that supports pre-payment systems and multiple payment methods llike recharge cards, counter and online payments. It also provides a platform for power theft analysis and load management.
The whole system is visualised and auditable.
The system has not only helped IKEJA to post better economic returns, it has boosted the service available to consumers as well so there has been a marked social benefit.
The system has helped IKEJA to improve its operation and management performance. It also forms a base for the construction of a smart grid in Nigeria.
Installing smart meters has helped IKEJA to increase its total customer population has increased from 158 000 to 353 000.
Bill collection has also improved, from 60% to 100% and, significantly, revenue has more than tripled, and the capital withdrawal period has been reduced from three months to zero.
Energy loss has reduced significantly, from 46,2% to 11,6% – and more importantly, 100% of the energy is now accounted for. This has been achieved partly by analysing electricity theft behaviours, providing reliable evidence and retrieving fees for stolen power. The system has also allows IKEJA to locate power loss in the grid, providing a reference for further improvement.
In addition, IKEJA has been able to achieve IT-based office and auditable processes, helping to reduce the overall labour cost by as much as 90%. This is achieved by automatic meter reading together with a unified platform and power vending entry.
The company has also improved customer loyalty and satisfaction as the system offers opportunities for consumers to optimise their user experience.
These include a choice of notification methods like SMS, email and phone calls. It also enables a variety of recharge methods, like counter, web, recharge card and self-service terminal.
Meanwhile, a platform has been established to handle complaints, fault reports and account registration.