The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

How a Startup Helps Utilities Spot Energy Theft

Stealing electricity costs not only utilities but also the consumers who help to pay for the costs of producing and transporting power. A startup called Awesense is using sensors and data analytics to help utilities detect energy theft and improve the efficiency of the grid.

The company, founded in 2009 and located in Vancouver in Canada, recently signed up a U.S. utility that agreed to use Awesense's new sales model, said Mischa Steiner-Jovic, CEO of Awesense. Instead of selling the equipment and software outright, Awesense can finance the equipment installation and data crunching and make money by getting a percentage of the revenue that comes from stopping the energy theft or charging a fee. Steiner-Jovic declined to disclose the name of the utility that has opted for the service contract.  

Power companies in Malaysia, Turkey, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic also plan to carry out trials of Awesense' technology starting this quarter, he added. Fortis BC in British Columbia is one of its customers.

About $220 billion worth of electricity gets lost annually because of theft or technical problems with the grid, according to a report by the World Bank in 2009. Most of the losses aren't due to technical problems, though. Energy theft is a big problem in India: about 27 percent is diverted illegally, according to its government. Theft amounts to $6 billion per year in the U.S., according to the same report.

"Most power thefts bypass the meters, so it's difficult for utilities to determine where they are occurring," Steiner-Jovic said.

The startup's technology consists of portable sensors that are about 10-inches tall by 1-inch wide and 4-inches deep and weigh less than a kilogram each. Utility workers can clip them onto wires, where the sensors would measure the current and calculate the energy (in kilowatt-hours) that flows through the line. Through the startup's own wireless network, the data goes back to Awesense's data center for analysis and are accessible by its utility customers.

The company has designed its technology for the distribution grid because that is where power theft most commonly takes place. The distribution grid also is less efficient than the transmission grid because it takes power from the high-voltage transmission lines, lowers the voltages along the way and sends the electricity to homes and businesses.

The amount of sensors and how closely they are to one another depend on what a utility wants to accomplish. If it wants to simply monitor the energy flow to a line that serves, say, 100 homes, then it could install one sensor on that line. If it wants to pinpoint more precisely where energy losses are occurring, then it would move sensors around or add more of them to home in on the cause, which could be theft or technical problems.

The data gives a utility good figures on how much energy flows through and is used in a particular area, Steiner-Jovic said. Otherwise they figure out overall losses based mostly on numbers that show how much power they've generated or bought and how much they have sold.

Because Awesense's equipment takes stock of the energy flow and demand, it also could help utilities figure out where they need to add new distribution lines or install power generation equipment, such as solar energy systems, to feed the demand.

By selling its services rather than its equipment and software, Awesense can serve utilities that don't want to invest the capital or hire employees to manage the sensor and data collection. It also reduces risk for utilities, which are known to take a while to adopt new technologies and would likely prefer to buy a service rather than invest in equipment from a startup that may not stick around long enough to provide maintenance and fulfill warranties.

Awesense raised its first equity round last year, but Steiner-Jovic declined to say how much. 

RELATED ARTICLES

Electric Vehicle

Tesla E-motorcycles Complement SolarCity Microgrids

Mahesh Bhave, Contributor Batteries are the renewed focus of attention given the launch of Tesla’s PowerWall on April 30. What or where might the next major application be? Utility scale storage appears to be one. My thesis is that launching Tesla e...
Canadian Climate Goals

Canada Announces Weak Climate Target

Danielle Droitsch, NRDC Last week, Canada has announced its contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases by announcing its post-2020 target. The target announced today is off-track to the 80 percent cut by 2050 they committed to in...
Renewable Energy Stocks

What Drives Alternative Energy Stocks?

Harris Roen, The Roen Financial Report Alternative energy became a serious market player after the turn of the millennium. Since that time, solar, wind, smart grid and other alternative energy stocks have experienced both strong up and down trends. The forces at...
Microgrids

Coast to Coast and Across the Electric System, Microgrids Provide Benefits to All

Dick Munson, Environmental Defense Fund At the most obvious level, microgrids could disrupt today’s utilities and their regulated-monopoly business model, because they challenge the centralized paradigm. In a nutshell, microgrids are localized power grids that ha...
Ucilia Wang is a California-based freelance journalist who writes about renewable energy. She previously was the associate editor at Greentech Media and a staff writer covering the semiconductor industry at Red Herring. In addition to Renewable En...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Using Grid data analytics to protect revenue, reduce network losses...

Energy Storage USA 2015

Energy Storage USA is the leading conference in the United States focuse...

ImagineSolar | Solar PV Project Experience: Advanced 5-day Workshop...

40 Advanced Credit HoursAdvanced 5 Day WorkshopIREC Accredited Continuin...

COMPANY BLOGS

Get Into Your Prospect's Shoes

    It may sound simple, but one of the best strategies for d...

The Question Trilogy

    It’s crucial to learn what your prospect needs from...

Helping Small Businesses Visualize Savings

    What does a small business owner care about? Most are run...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS