Incentives and Security in Electricity Distribution Networks

TitleIncentives and Security in Electricity Distribution Networks
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsAmin, S., G. A. Schwartz, and H. Tembine
Conference NameGameSec

We study incentive problems in electricity distribution when customer energy usage is imperfectly observable by the utility. Thus, we assume that each customer has private information about the amount of his consumed energy. Imperfect observability of individual user demand results is non-technical energy losses. In developing countries, these losses amount to 20 − 30% per year, and are largely attributed to theft by residential customers. Reducing these losses will allow a marked increase in efficiency of the electricity distribution. Usage of smart energy management devices enables new functionalities and brings the potential for such increased efficiency. However, employing smart energy management devices also entails a new set of problems. Typically, such devices are commercially produced, and employ off-the-shelf information technology (IT) solutions with inherent security vulnerabilities. Thus, due to technology limitations and cost constraints, smart devices are vulnerable to tampering and may enable systemic energy theft, threatening to reduce, or even erase the gains in efficiency. In this paper, we address incentives of utility company to combat theft (i.e., non-technical losses), when utility is subject to rate (tariff) regulation. From our analysis, such regulated utilities invest less than socially optimal in theft reduction. We suggest that regulators should include explicit targets for the allowable losses to remedy the problem of incentive misalignment.