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Machine Learning Helps Power Down Electricity Theft in Jamaica

Anna Lerner's picture
  • In Jamaica, about a quarter of electricity produced is stolen or “lost” through non-paying customers and/or accounting errors. Manual detection has failed to make a difference in reducing this theft.
  • ESMAP’s technical assistance team implemented a machine learning model to help Jamaican utility JPS identify and decrease incidents of theft.
  • The machine learning model is based on an open source code, and is available for free to any utility.
About a quarter of the electricity produced by Jamaica’s energy utility, Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is stolen. When traditional, labor-intensive methods failed to produce lasting results, Jamaica tried a different approach: machine learning.
 
Globally, billions of dollars are lost every year due to electricity theft, wherein electricity is distributed to customers but is never paid for. In 2014 alone, Jamaica’s total power transmission and distribution system reported 27% of losses (due to technical and non-technical reasons), close to double the regional average. While the utility company absorbs a portion of the cost, it also passes some of that cost onto consumers. Both actors therefore have an incentive to want to change this.
 
To combat this, JPS would spend more than $10 million (USD) on anti-theft measures every year, only to see theft numbers temporarily dip before climbing back up again. The problem was, these measures relied primarily on human-intensive, manual detection, and customers stealing electricity used more and more sophisticated ways to go around regularly metered use. JPS employees would use their institutional knowledge of serial offenders and would spend hours poring over metering data to uncover irregular patterns in electricity usage to identify shady accounts. But it wasn’t enough to effectively quash incidents of theft.

LED street lighting: Unburdening our cities

Jie Li's picture
LED street lighting in a municipal park. © Orion Trail / Thinkstock Photos.
Further permission required for reuse.
Each city is unique, defined not only by the individuals who call it home but also by the energy it exudes…and consumes. Projections indicate that 5 billion people (60% of the world’s population) will live in cities by 2050 and, according to the International Energy Agency, the overall demand for lighting will be 80% higher by 2030 than in 2005. Street lighting energy consumption is an increasingly significant part of cities energy use and a growing burden on municipal budgets.

Electrification planning made easier with new open source tool

Dimitris Mentis's picture


Evaluating the optimal way to expand electricity access across a country is difficult, especially in countries where energy related data is scarce and not centralized. Geospatial plans informing universal electricity access strategies and investments can easily take 18 to 24 months to complete.

A team working on a national electrification plan for Zambia last December did not have that much time.

They faced a six-month deadline to develop a plan, or they would miss out on a funding window, said Jenny Hasselsten, an energy specialist at the World Bank brought in to help with the electrification project in partnership with the government of Zambia.

Minerals and Metals Will Be Key to a Clean Environment

Daniele La Porta Arrobas's picture
Also available in: Français


The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change was preceded by analysis covering the science and viability of response measures, including both adaptation to the impacts of climate change and measures to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Mitigation issues typically covered the economic, policy, technology and sustainability implications of reducing emissions, but relatively little towards understanding the implications of a low-carbon future. 

For this reason, the World Bank decided to explore and study which minerals and metals will likely see an increase in demand to achieve a low-carbon future. Using wind, solar and energy storage batteries as proxies, The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low-Carbon Future report is one of the Bank’s contributions towards ensuring this topic is given its rightful place in the ongoing global climate change dialogue.

Based on climate and technology scenarios developed out of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Energy Technology Perspective, the World Bank developed a set of commodities demand projections up to 2050. We did so by providing best estimates on the uptake of three discrete climate-benefit technologies – wind, solar and energy storage batteries – required to help meet three different global warming scenarios of 20C, 40C, and 6oC. 
These technologies represent only a sub-set of a much broader suite of technologies and transmission systems required to truly deliver on a low-carbon future. Nevertheless, the findings are significant.

Policy shifts to strengthen China’s power sector reform

Yao Zhao's picture
Over the past few years, China saw more investment and installation in renewable energy than any other country in the world. In fact, in the period between 2010 and 2015, investment in the sector reached $377 billion, more than the next two countries - the United States and Germany – combined. China has 150 GW wind power and 77 GW solar photovoltaic power capacity compared to the U.S., for example, which has 80 GW in wind and 35 GW solar PV.

China has performed well above the global average, shined as the regional leader in East Asia, matched, if not outperformed, OCED countries in many dimensions, many countries with much lower investments and capacity have scored higher on renewable energy indicators.

Why the discrepancy?

The World Bank's Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) could shed some light on the issue. Launched in February 2017, RISE is a policy scorecard of unprecendented breadth and depth covering energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy in 111 countries. It focuses on regulatory frameworks in these countries and measures that are within the direct responsibility of policy-makers. The result is based on data made available to the team at the end of 2015 and thoroughly validated.
 
 

Ten steps to boost the private sector’s role in Africa’s power transmission network

Samuel Kwesi Ewuah Oguah's picture
Image of girl from Africa: Canva
 


Africa has immense, untapped potential to meet the energy needs of its people and yet, two in three Africans still live without access to electricity. One aspect of the energy story that is not often in the spotlight is the power transmission network. But transmission – like generation and distribution of power – is a critical factor in getting electricity across thousands of miles to those who need it most. Building and maintaining reliable and extensive transmission infrastructure requires between $3.2 billion and $4.3 billion every year until 2040 – an investment goal the region’s electricity utilities, that are often state-run, cannot meet on their own.

Can the private sector help? We think so.

From slums to neighborhoods: How energy efficiency can transform the lives of the urban poor

Martina Bosi's picture

Villa 31, an iconic urban settlement in the heart of Buenos Aires, is home to about 43,000 of the city’s poor. In Argentina, paradoxically, urban slums are called ‘villas’ – a word usually tied with luxury in many parts of the world.
 

Clean Cooking in Bangladesh: the experience from one million households

Amit Jain's picture
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It was a dark, rainy evening when we first met Mamta in Bangladesh. She was huddled over a choolah (firewood burning cook stove), preparing rice and daal (lentils) for her three children. Smoke enveloped the room, which also doubles as the family’s bedroom when it rains. And her daughter asked: Why do I get tears in my eyes whenever you cook inside the room? ”
 
While some countries are far ahead on the energy access curve, like Australia, which is mulling ways to install mega battery packs in 100 days, others like Bangladesh are still grappling with the fundamental cookstove challenge and the right answer to Mamta’s daughter questions.
 
Getting to clean cooking universally, quite frankly, is one of the biggest challenges the global energy community has ever faced.

Riding the data revolution wave toward sustainable energy for all

Yann Tanvez's picture
Today, more than 1 billion people still live without access to energy, despite the multiplication of efforts from public, private and non-governmental actors. At the same time, global efforts abound to keep global warming under 2 degree Celsius, in accordance with the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

The explicit need of the hour is a significant increase of annual investments in energy access, renewables and energy efficiency – in the hundreds of billions of dollars’ range. So what role does open data play in such a scenario, you may wonder. 

Need solar resource data or maps? We've got an app for that

Oliver Knight's picture


Last month the World Bank launched a new Global Solar Atlas: a free, online tool that lets you zoom into areas anywhere in the world in great detail (1km resolution), and with downloadable poster maps for all developing countries. This new interactive tool is welcome news for anyone – policymaker or commercial developer – who has ever looked for solar maps or resource data from the cluttered and sometimes confusing array of public resources available
 
For this new atlas to have a greater impact, the following needs to happen.   
 
First, we need to cut down on the duplication and often wasted resources associated with national mapping projects. For example, before the Global Solar Atlas was launched, it cost $100,000-150,000 to commission a solar resource map for an average-sized country, and the work took around six months to complete. But with the Atlas,  we have completed this task for  all developing countries at a fraction of the cost, allowing funding to be channeled into higher value activities such as geospatial planning to identify renewable energy zones, or ground-based measurement campaigns to help further improve the solar resource models on which the results are based. This new tool could be an invaluable asset for governments, development agencies, and foundations so that they no longer commission country-based mapping efforts that are, in many cases, costly and may end up duplicating what the Atlas offers already.
 
Second, we need to continuously improve the data behind the Atlas, and other commercially available solar resource models, by investing in ground-based solar radiation measurement stations, with the first two years of data compiled and available in the public domain. But this is easier said than done. There are major gaps in the current measurement data network, especially in developing countries, and this adds to the uncertainty of the solar data provided. In turn, that increases developer risk and ultimately costs. Unfortunately, it is very easy to commission a poor quality measurement campaign, or to leave out key bits of data that are needed for eventual analysis. So adopting a universal set of standards is vital.
 
Third, public research institutes that have previously carried out solar resource assessments need to take a hard look at what value they add in this area. Over the last five years a number of commercial providers of solar resource data have emerged that maintain standing solar resource models, and work continuously to improve and update their solar data. This is an excellent example of public incubation and research being translated into successful start-ups, and should be celebrated. But the originators now need to move on to new frontiers of research to avoid crowding out commercial providers, and to help generate the next generation of methodologies and tools.

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