power grid at sunset

Solving electricity fraud with mobile meter reading technology

Ebin Thomas

Account Executive at Anyline

Jan 20, 2022

If utility companies had an arch nemesis, it would be named power and electricity fraud. Whether customers play a role in scamming their provider directly or find themselves the victim of such a scheme does not matter — the issue affects everyone globally.

That said, utilities can take added steps to reduce this practice. Namely, by using mobile solutions, such as mobile meter readers, aimed at ensuring those looking to commit fraud are thwarted in their tracks before they can even get started.

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1. What is electricity fraud?

Utility providers are confronted to two types of losses, which are categorized as either technical or non-technical losses.

  • Technical losses (TLs) are from material and physical limitations that end up causing electricity losses — i.e. elements out of everyone’s control. Infrastructure deficiencies can also be a cause of TLs.
  • Non-technical losses (NTLs) are a bit different. These are classified as non-billed or incorrectly billed electricity, as well as illegal or fraudulent use of electricity: meter tampering, billing irregularities made by incorrect meter reading and more. Theft can also be a problem, such as in situations where direct connections to the grid are made that allow someone to bypass meters and access the grid entirely.

Electricity fraud goes into the second category, NTLs. If not all NTLs are due to fraud, a large proportion of NTLs can be attributed to fraud and theft.

2. What are the consequences for utility companies and their customers?

When it comes to energy fraud, it isn’t a victimless crime. In fact, both customers and the power providers face damages. For example:

  1. Customers see higher energy bills when their neighbors intentionally defraud utility companies and increase regional usage.
  2. Extra strain on the power grid from illegal activity can result in greater downtimes.
  3. The dangers of manipulating meters or installing electrical connections can lead to damages to the energy network and injuries.

Furthermore, utilities find themselves in a tough position when they lose out on revenue and see honest customers leaving to go to other providers due to power issues. Both are big problems that providers need to be willing to face directly by implementing solutions in battling fraud.

4. What benefits are there to OCR technology?

That said, there are numerous benefits to adopting OCR. This technology has a 99% accuracy rate. That way, getting information from the wrong meter is almost impossible. Additionally, this ensures correct billing for every involved party—the customer, the community, and the utility company.

Efficiency and speed of reading meters is also greatly improved for utility providers. And the ability to catch energy losses before they spin out of control into mega fraud is also greatly improved.

As a result of those two benefits, utility companies save a lot of resources thanks to the accurate and fast meter reading process. Moreover, utility companies can save resources by applying mobile apps for the mobile meter reading on their employee’s smartphones, which makes purchasing special devices unnecessary.