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One of 11 power utilities in Nigeria, Ikeja Electric generates and distributes power for three states. It has more than 530,000 customers and provides more than 20 million GWh of power annually. Ikeja’s production capacity and revenue rank first in Nigeria; however, the second-place utility comes close. To cope with the competition, Ikeja planned to deploy an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and stimulate revenue growth.
Ikeja faced challenges familiar to any utility in the developing world. The main issues were electric power that was not paid for or was paid for long after consumption. The overall line-loss rate exceeded 45 percent, partly because the electric power infrastructure was outdated. More important, more than 40 percent of customers did not pay for the electricity they consumed. As a result, Ikeja suffered a loss of more than USD $75 million per month.
Many customers did not have meters. They paid bills three or four months after consuming electricity estimated by the utility. Further, customers had to wait in long queues at a service center to pay their bills. The vending system had a great deal of disorganized and inaccurate data. As a result of this disorganization, and the fact that many bills were not based on actual metered consumption, customers often contested their bills or simply refused to pay them.
Of the electric meters that Ikeja did have, few were smart meters, so the utility had to employ more than 1,000 meter readers. Maintenance was complicated as the meters were supplied by multiple vendors. Many meters were not monitored or protected, making them vulnerable to deterioration or intentional damage.
Ikeja was determined to deploy an AMI system to reduce electric line loss, save O&M costs, shorten the investment payback period, and improve operational efficiency.
Huawei provided an end-to-end intelligent meter reading solution to help Ikeja comprehensively upgrade its system from the meter to the application level. At the lowest level, Ikeja replaced traditional mechanical meters with intelligent meters that can accept payments from pre-paid scratch cards. These meters provide multiple electricity theft detection methods: Alarms are triggered if the cover is opened, cable connections are reversed, or a high-intensity magnetic field is applied. The meters report information about current, voltage, power, and electricity consumption in real time using an integrated Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and IoT technology.
A power line communications network carries this consumption information from the meters to data collection points. The data is then transmitted to the main control center through the carriers’ public networks, achieving 100 percent success rate for meter reading. It has been proved that the PLCs can handle communications for more than 95 percent of the meters. In other cases, meters can use GPRS cellular communications to send data to the utility’s host station.
Huawei provided a powerful IoT platform to facilitate data, connection, and device management. This platform integrates a variety of advanced application systems supplied by Huawei’s partners, such as billing, prepayment, and fee collection systems. To help Ikeja improve operational efficiency, the platform also offers powerful statistical data analysis, real-time line loss analysis, and electricity theft analysis.
With the AMI in place, Ikeja has dramatically reduced line loss, improved operating efficiency, and increased revenues, while raising customer satisfaction. Anti-theft functions in the meters, line loss location analysis, and remote switch on/off have decreased line loss from 45 percent to 14 percent and reduced the occurrence of electricity theft by 90 percent.
The AMI system helped Ikeja improve its fee collection rate by 40 percent, doubling the utility’s revenues. The prepayment system accelerated return on investment, shortening the payment period by more than 60 percent.
Many features of the system helped Ikeja operate more efficiently. These features include visualized management, intelligent operation, customized reports, line loss and load analysis, and bi-directional communication with meters. These management features also help Ikeja guarantee optimal services for high-value users.
Ikeja’s new metering and payment system improved customer satisfaction in several ways. Electricity fees are no longer based on estimated statistics, so the charges are accurate, and the utility offers more flexible ways to pay. Consumers can purchase electricity and check electricity consumption using a smartphone App, email, online, SMS, and Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. Electricity can also be prepaid at bank branches, and some meters allow customers to insert a smart card to make payments.