Bihar becomes first state in India to leverage AI to curb power theft

Bidgely, a US-based startup founded by Indian Americans, has partnered with the state to solve the problem.

Sanjeev Hans CMD BSPHCL (left) with Gautam Aggarwal Chief Revenue Officer BIdgely / Courtesy Photo

For quite some time, Bihar, the second-largest state in central India, has been actively combating energy theft. The Bihar State Power Holding Company Limited (BSPHCL) has taken a groundbreaking step forward by deciding to employ AI in its fight against power theft. 

The first thing that had to be done, was the gradual but rapid installation of smart meters all over the state. The following stage was to develop a strategy to reduce instances of theft and misuse based on the useful information received from the meters.

“Energy theft accounts for nearly 20 to 30 percent of the revenue loss for India’s state utilities, yet current strategies to plug leakages and book theft only yield on average 10 to 20 percent results,” says Indian-American Abhay Gupta, CEO of Bidgely. 

“Instead of solely relying on local intelligence and on-site inspections, BSPHCL can now leverage AI technologies to detect energy theft faster and with greater precision. In addition to revenue savings, the saved labour hours can also drive enhanced services for consumers, “ he added.

Bidgely’s AI technology, which analyzes smart meter data to flag anomalous behaviors and patterns in consumer energy usage, has already flagged over 136 potential cases of theft. All cases were inspected and an assessment was raised in almost 63 percent of the tariff misuse cases. 

In meter bypassing and night theft, while 51 percent of leads were found correct, successful bookings were made in 41 percent of the flagged cases. Overall, 57 percent were booked, within one month of usage. BSPHCL is also the first state utility in India to utilize advanced AI to mitigate theft-related and commercial losses.   

The Bihar pilot project has a lot of significance owing to the sheer timing of it. To start with, power outages and thefts tend to spike during the summer. In addition, the pilot program was launched just before the country's elections, giving the current administration a golden chance to demonstrate its dedication to efficient power usage and sufficient supply. 

“Next, we are leveraging AI/ML data analytics that will take us to the next level to drive various use cases leveraging smart meter data like revenue leakage, demand forecasting, energy accounting, distribution network planning for grid assets and more, without depending on additional monitoring hardware or consumer indexing,”said Sanjeev Hans, CMD at BSPHCL “This is where we are partnering with solution providers like Bidgely to deliver revenue leakage solutions and unlock the value of AI/ML driven data analytics for Bihar,” he added.

Rather than identifying theft top down from feeder to transformer and finally to customer level, Bidgely’s AI can process data at the individual level at a faster pace to reveal anomalous patterns consistent with partial or complete meter bypassing, bypassing of heavy appliances like air conditioning, night theft, meter tampering and tariff misuse – therefore ensuring revenue protection. 
Where traditional approaches to theft detection also require massive amounts of manual intervention, AI takes on that role to detect leakages in a fraction of the time.

With roots in Silicon Valley, Bidgely has over 16 energy patents, US$75M+ in funding, 30+ data scientists, and brings a passion for AI to utilities serving residential and commercial customers around the world. The company has its largest engineering center in Bangalore, India.