In a letter to the Legislature, President Weah said power theft "is a crime akin to sabotaging the economy, destroys life and property when dangerous illegal connections are made, sometimes causing fire outbreak."
Electricity theft causes financial losses and disrupts access to power for homes and businesses. The Liberia Electricity Corporation has said that it is losing around US$35 million annually to power theft. The issue has reached the attention the President of Liberia, George M. Weah, who responded with a draft bill to the 54th Legislature asking them to make power theft a crime of the 2nd degree, punishable by multi-year jail sentences.
However, as with most laws in Liberia, they are easier passed than enforced. Between corrupt government officials, businessmen with deep pockets, struggling technicians and police officers willing to look the other way for a for dollars, power theft syndicates die hard and LEC knows this full well.
Such rampant power theft is a classic scenario where ICT based solutions are required and an East African electrical engineer thinks he has just the right solution for the Liberian electricity problem.
Ugandan electrical engineer Edmand Aijuka's Kamata Online Protection System notifies power utilities when meters are manipulated or tampered with. It cuts the power supply to the affected area only, and sends the location, meter number and type of interference to a control centre. It also lets the control centre restore power remotely after incidents are resolved.
A pilot of 20 Kamata units recently saved Uganda's biggest power utility 2.6 million UGX (703 USD) within the first month of their installation. The pilot at Umeme Limited was such a success that in 2019, Umeme has since ordered more Kamata units for roll out.
Kamata is designed to protect any type of meter including post-paid, pre-paid and smart meters. It plugs into whichever system the utility is using, without the need to overhaul existing infrastructure.
It detects any meter tampering, including unauthorized meter box access, illegal bypasses, and when foreign objects are inserted into the meter to slow it down and/or show incorrect readings. Customers can remotely disconnect power if an electricity bill is unpaid and validate meter readings. Kamata integrates with existing billing systems and provides a detailed analysis of power loss.
Originally designed to protect single phase systems used by individual customers, Kamata is now predominantly used by large power consumers on three phase systems, such as factories and apartment buildings. Before installing Kamata, customers are trained to operate and manage the system.
Kamata was named a runner up in the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation in 2016.
"The flexible nature of Kamata means that it can easily be installed by other power utilities to prevent revenue loss as a result of electricity theft," says Aijuka.
The company plans to expand in 2020 to countries including Cameroon, Liberia and Zambia.