In 2014 the Nigerian economy grew 6.3%. In order to accommodate that growth, the power generation volume needs to reach approximately 20,000 MW per year. Unfortunately, electricity suppliers serve less than 50 percent of the total population, which was 173 million in 2014. Increased electricity supplies will be vital as Africa’s economy grows and consumers demand a higher quality of life.
Problems Faced by African Power Companies
Supply and Demand
High demand for power coupled with a short supply creates many issues.
Many African countries use mechanical meters that are highly susceptible to electricity theft. Only a small number of outdated IC card meters have been installed, which are easy to tamper with.
Payment Delays and Failures
Inefficient billing, billing errors, and poor consumer experience pose challenges to bill collection. In Lagos, Nigeria more than 50% of consumers did not have meters installed before 2014. If a customer did not have a power meter they received an estimated bill, which was often inaccurate.
Inconvenient payment methods deter consumers from paying for their electricity. For example, in Cairo, Egypt meter reading personnel make house calls to read monthly data on meters and collect electricity bills. If no one is home or the consumer has no cash on hand, the bill is not collected that month.
Generally speaking, power companies do not interact well with consumers. Consumers aren’t notified about imminent outages. There are no platforms for reporting faults, making complaints, or submitting requests, which reduce consumers’ satisfaction and willingness to pay on time.
Aging Power Infrastructure and Stagnant Growth
Growth of Africa’s electric power industry is stagnant and does not support recent increases in power consumption. Because of revenue loss from electricity theft and inconsistent bill collecting, electric power companies often don’t have the money or resources to invest in the improvement of their power infrastructure.
For example, the annual report of the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) in 2013 showed that their line losses exceeded 20 percent in 2013. These line losses are the result of frequent electricity theft, aging infrastructures, and aging equipment.
Inefficient Use of Human Resources and Lack of Automated Management
A large number of companies’ workers perform meter reading and bill collection, which decreases the efficiency of the entire company. Many electric power companies lack Office Automation such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
AMI is the Optimal Solution for Electric Power Companies
A reliable, high-quality Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solution is a powerful tool for power companies. AMI enables companies to address issues of inefficient billing, power theft, meter tampering, and confusing patterns of energy usage to increase energy production and better serve their customers.
Power companies should consider these factors when choosing an AMI solution:
• Complex power distribution and patterns of energy usage: With the right technology, AMI can shield residential, commercial, and industrial power lines from electromagnetic interference.
• Prevention and detection of electricity theft.
• Billing efficiency: The solution should ensure full coverage for different uses of power and for automatic meter reading, develop diversified payment methods, and provide a good user experience for the consumer.
• Improve efficiency and cost reduction: AMI supports advanced applications such as line loss analysis and load management, which reduces costs.
How AMI Solutions Meet Customer’s Demands
High Meter-reading Success Rate
An effective AMI solution must provide a daily meter reading success rate above 99%. Huawei smart meters have meter reading success rates well over 99%, enabling electric power companies to measure and collect power consumption data in real time or as scheduled.
Accurate, Real-Time Charging
Smart meters have elastic data collection capabilities that can shorten the charging period, speed up electricity bill collection, and serve as the foundation for line loss analysis and response.
In most cases, the Neighborhood Area Network (NAN) layer supports PLC, ZigBee, RF, WLAN, RS485, and other communication methods. Power companies prefer PLC because it saves costs and ensures high quality communication. However, traditional PLC technology has low transmission rates and poor reliability. But Huawei’s broadband PLC supports a communication rate of more than 20 times that of traditional PLC technologies. Consumers can specify the power consumption time based on electricity price changes and participate in the distributed power supply with their own solar power.
Payment Methods and Channels to Help Consumers Pay Electricity Fees
Adaptive payment methods provide a convenient billing experience for consumers. With an AMI solution, the master station supports Validation, Estimation, and Editing to ensure the integrity and accuracy of meter data despite communication network interruption or user faults.
An AMI solution provides pre-paid and post-paid services. Consumers can pay their bills directly through their banks, a third-party payment platform, or an agent. In Lagos, consumers can now pay their bills online or by using a scratch card.
Electricity Theft Prevention Enhances Consumer Benefits
Smart meters are equipped with theft prevention functions. The AMI solution can defend against many technical methods of electricity theft, including neutral wire disconnection, load grounding, neutral wire grounding, direct load grounding, and phase wire bypass.
Huawei and its partners have provided services for the electric power industry for over 20 years, and Huawei’s products and solutions have been successfully implemented in more than 160 electricity companies around the world. With its partners, Huawei provides electric power companies with solutions including Smart Photovoltaic power generation, power transmission and transformation, distribution communication, AMI, and data centers.
In Africa, Huawei has provided electric power services since the early 21st century, and has established offices throughout the continent. For example, in Nigeria Huawei has set up branches and warehouses and assigned technical personnel, ensuring rapid, high-quality project delivery. Sticking to its “openness and cooperation” strategy, Huawei jointly sets up meter ecosystems with local meter vendors and has committed to providing services for electric power companies for the long term. Huawei helps electric power companies phase out outdated facilities and improve automation, ensuring that power companies provide quality energy and services for consumers.
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