Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) is implementing a Prepayment Metering Project in the city of Chittagong.
Although it has a technically acceptable electricity transmission system, Chittagong has distribution system losses well above the national average. 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. By providing BPDB with experience on introducing prepayment metering into Bangladesh, it will enable them to assess the prospects for achieving these main aims in reality. Furthermore, it will highlight the technical, organizational and personnel aspects that need to be considered during the introduction of such a 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 from more timely payments and 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 ROM contract (Rehabilitate – Operate – Maintain) for an initial period of five years in three of the sixty supply districts in Chittagong. It includes the provision and installation of prepayment meters, vending stations and a system management station. But it also includes rehabilitation of the power distribution infrastructure in these districts and the installation of check meters on each Distribution Transformer, for crosschecking against the energy measured by the consumer meters for energy audit purposes. After operating and maintaining the system 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 requirements that were generated for the system included:
- 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 rather than smart-cards or tokens.
- Prepayment and postpayment capability.
- Meter displays to be in monetary value in the local currency (Taka) – and not just energy (kWh units).
- Capability to return a time-stamped meter reading to vending station as an Authenticated Billing Code (two way communication).
- 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 requirements of Time-of-Use capability together with meter displays showing remaining credit in Taka rather than kWh units.
According to Mr. A. M. Khurshedul Alam, Project Director for BPDB – “BPDB wanted a contractor that had good reputation and worldwide experience with the capability to deliver a long term solution with ongoing benefits to the utility and its consumers. We were surprised that any single company could meet all of our demanding requirements. PRI’s experience in revenue protection, energy auditing of distribution systems and innovative payment solutions were important in making our selection. Other keypad prepayment systems were evaluated but we considered that they were not able to meet the specific needs of Time of Use and of money based displays.”
Technical Project Consultant, Mr. Keith Galatis of UDS said “PRI’s On-Line Liberty system is the only keypad prepayment system with two-way capability. 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 refurbishment program, 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 feeder points is being purchased by the Operating Contractor at a fixed rate. It is then sold to the consumer at agreed slab and time of use tariff rates. The Operating Contractor needs to reduce technical and non-technical losses and to encourage customer satisfaction so is proceeding with network refurbishment and rehabilitation work. 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 consumed by consumers is compared against that metered 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 remaining credit remain at current consumption rates. The system includes Friendly Credit so consumers are not cutoff 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 2000 conventional meters were replaced with the Liberty meters in one of the feeder areas, BPDB observed a 30% 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% of consumers have replaced their conventional lamps with energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps to reduce their energy consumption and their electricity bills.
Mr. 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.”
Mr. Robert Samson, Senior Project Manager of Fichtner said “We expect PRI’s Liberty system will make life easier for consumers and will as well bringing significant benefits for BPDB. I am impressed by the consumer awareness program that PRI is running to create understanding of the new system.”