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Megger's TDR Plugs Revenue Leaks

07 November 2008

The latest time domain reflectometers (TDRs) in the TDR2000/2 series from Megger are proving to be an important aid in the battle against illegal extraction of electricity from the supply system.

The battle against illegal extraction of electricity from the supply system is a particular problem in many developing countries, where the amount of revenue lost by power utilities through the illegal use of un-metered supplies is enormous. In some parts of India, for example, it has been estimated that only around 40% of electricity used is actually paid for!

While it might be easy to be smug about this, it is interesting to reflect that even in the UK, the cost of illegal electricity usage has recently been quoted as around £100 million for the last four years!

The favoured method of obtaining “free” electricity in developing countries is by making an unauthorised connection – usually know as an illegal tap – to the supply network. Setting up these taps on a live network is a risky business but many are willing to take the risks. Finding the taps by conventional methods – essentially visual inspection – is a difficult and time-consuming business.

Megger TDR2000/2 instruments make the task much easier and faster. Though nominally intended to locate faults on power cables, the TDRs can also quickly reveal the presence of illegal taps.

A trace can be taken of a system, stored, and at a later date can then be used as a reference to see if anything has changed. If an illegal tap has been made it will be shown as an impedance change and will be a divergence at the point of connection, showing the distance to the illegal tap.  

Armed with the knowledge of the distance to the tap, the search area for the illegal connection is greatly reduced. It makes it easier for the engineers to physically find the taps, no matter how well they may have been hidden.

While the penetration of CCTV and wired telecommunications systems are limited in the developing world, it is worth noting that the use of TDRs is equally applicable to the location of illegal taps in networks of these types.

The Megger TDR2000/2P is particularly well suited to these applications as it is an inexpensive and compact handheld instrument that has data storage and recall to make it easy to compare a live trace with a stored one. It has been specifically designed to be easy to use, even by those who have little experience with time domain reflectometry. In addition, it can be used on live circuits without the need for external filters, so the electricity supply does not need to be cut off while investigations are being carried out.

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