Helping clean up our own backyard

Since 2011, when BC Hydro first began their ambitious province-wide smart meter program, Awesense has been working with the British Columbia utility, providing technology to help run a proactive revenue recovery program and crack down on power theft.  The utility was faced with a whopping 850 GWh of power theft each year – equivalent to the power used by ~77,000 homes.  The cost of this power – estimated at $100M/ year - was being passed on to BC Hydro customers, as is the case for many utilities around the world.

But kudos to BC Hydro – they decided to do better.

The lost revenue was actually the least of their worries.  The primary cause of power theft in British Columbia were marijuana grow operations; sophisticated thieves who weren’t afraid to tap directly into low or medium voltage distribution lines.  These illegal connections created the potential for multiple problems:

Public Safety
Prior to 2010, house fires in parts of BC were occurring at a rate well above the national average. Inspections showed that a large percentage of the fires were caused by improper electrical bypasses to power marijuana grow ops. 

Worker Safety
Field crews and first responders to fires could encounter unexpected energized lines, exposing them to the risk of electrocution.  Also, investigators following tips and performing meter inspections would face additional risks when the facility was an illegal grow operation.

Transformer Fires
Transformers could be serving heavy unmetered loads causing them to operate outside their rating level, created the risk of fires or even explosions.  And even if they don't catch fire, overloaded transformers will have drastically reduced lifespans.

Grid Stability
Unanticipated loads have the potential to cause unbalances and equipment failures leading to outages.  They can also impact power quality, causing flickering lights or other power issues in consumer homes.

Lost Revenue
In addition to the revenue lost directly from unpaid power bill, the utility has to bear all the costs associated with generating, and distributing that power – only to have it stolen in the end.

With a combination of smart meters, existing SCADA devices and Awesense’s TGI sensors and analytics software as well as other systems, BC Hydro went after the illegal grow ops.  In 3 years, they had cut their losses due to theft by 50%.  As a company with its head office in BC, Awesense was delighted to play an important role in our local utility's success.

Hear why BC Hydro decided to work with Awesense

Greg Reimer, EVP of Transmission, Distribution & Customer Service was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss working with Awesense:

Keep an eye on our blog to find out how BC Hydro's system has performed after 5 years in an upcoming post. We'll share more details on this great success story.