1999: Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE)
Pre-payment electricity metering represented 30% of electricity sold in Northern Ireland, but after the introduction of Liberty this figure rose to 41%. The Liberty pre-payment system was introduced into Northern Ireland as a pilot project in 1999, primarily as a means of debt recovery and debt avoidance. However, it became extremely popular with consumers and use spread. It was an expansion largely driven by word of mouth.
Liberty was an innovative keypad pre-payment system with a flexible vending system - allowing customers to buy energy over the phone, on the internet or from traditional vending outlets. It allowed ‘friendly credit’ too. The system included an easy to use ‘Freedom’ (in home display) which displayed meaningful usage information and gave an audible low credit warning.
NIE started rolling out the Liberty ‘keypad’ pre-payment metering system in 2002 after several years of trials, to replace an earlier generation of physical token ‘Powercard’ pre-payment meters. The Powercard (magnetic card) metering system was not accepted socially and was expensive to maintain.
Because it is easy to use, in Northern Ireland the pre-payment sector has grown multifold – purely because consumers exercised the right to choose how they paid for their use of electricity. Pre-payment electricity metering represented 30% of electricity sold in Northern Ireland, but after the introduction of Liberty this figure rose to 41%.
Liberty in Northern Ireland helped primarily in three important ways: Improved customer satisfaction and reduced complaints Reduced costs by reducing call handling and site visits Gave better data security*
It is noteworthy, that Liberty was born at a time when the customers did not have much choice whilst using pre-payment electricity. Liberty as a system was revolutionary and because of the benefits, it left an indelible mark in Northern Ireland - there are over half a million Liberty users today.
In 2002 the NIE pre-payment project received a Special Commendation Award from The Capital Project Management Company. The judges were bowled over by the scheme and commented, “Truly amazing”.
*Security aspects of Liberty System: Secure’s Liberty system, was very secure from the very start. It is now maintained under ISO 27001, which is an internationally recognised Information Security Management Standard. Like any controlling standard it requires procedures and work instructions and is audited internally and externally. This gives better control and maintains the security of the Liberty system. Furthermore it helps us focus on business continuity. The procedures require that connections and changes to the system are requested in a secure and controlled manner.
New Zealand Gas Corporation (NGC)
“By taking advantage of the energy use information provided by the meter, households can reduce their energy consumption by up to 10%, perhaps more” After the initial success in Northern Ireland, Liberty made its overseas debut in New Zealand. Liberty was introduced to the New Zealand electricity market by NGC as an innovative pre-payment metering system. The meters were developed to meet the specific needs of the New Zealand market. An infrastructure that connected retailers’ vending channels to the Liberty server in the United Kingdom was set up.
The Liberty technology gave customers accurate and real time usage information and an ability to manage their usage. Working in partnership with Genesis Energy, the system underwent a successful pilot in the New Zealand market. Despite the pilot’s success, it did not result in a roll-out. NGC Energy Services General Manager, Owen Coppage expressed that the Liberty system was an example of the rapid developments in energy metering technology worldwide.
“This system takes the guesswork out of buying electricity. Customers using this meter can see how much credit they have remaining at any time, and how many more days it is likely to last based on the household’s consumption. There is an in-built alert mechanism when credit is running low.”
“Customers can see how much electricity they used yesterday, last week, last month or right now. They can also see the effect of simple energy management measures – like turning off unused appliances, or taking advantage of off-peak rates. Conversely, they can instantly assess additional electricity consumption when they turn on an appliance, like a heater.” “By taking advantage of the energy use information provided by the meter, households can reduce their energy consumption by up to 10%, perhaps more.” “But, of increasing importance, it is an energy management technology that allows anyone to constantly monitor their electricity use and to apply the information provided by the meter to use their electricity more efficiently, and save money.” 2003 Kuwait
Over the years, the owners and the end users have found the system user friendly and trust worthy
Similar problems related to use of electricity were often encountered by utilities, facility developers, real estate owners, and house landlords. The main challenges were to realise an effective metering, billing and collection system, with user friendly, easy to understand technology.
The owners of Marina Mall in Kuwait City wanted to manage the energy consumption (power and lighting circuits only) of their commercial tenants and to be able to automatically disconnect the supply for non-payment. Secure proposed a keypad pre-payment system based on its Sprint meter and Liberty On-Line pre-payment system.
The customer accepted our proposal and the system was commissioned in January 2003. Vending was via Liberty On-Line, running on one PC situated at the Marina Mall complex. The customer could purchase electricity at the vending PC. The PC was connected through the internet to the encryption server in the UK. This simplified the vending operation and allowed for easy expansion of the system to include other options, such as ATM, internet, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, etc. if desired.
A further benefit of remote encryption is greater security since the vending terminal has to be “known” by the encryption system – stealing and copying the vending software does not allow anyone to generate their own electricity vend codes. The Liberty client software running on the vending PC allows customer to carry out database management and also generate reports. Over the years, the owners and the end users have found the system user friendly and trust worthy.
“We were surprised that any single company could meet all of our demanding requirements”
In early 2000, Chittagong had distribution system losses >25%; well above the national average. These losses arose from defective meter installations, theft of electricity by manipulation or bypassing of meters, inaccuracies in the meter-reading process, invoicing errors and direct tapping of the power lines by the consumers. The financial viability of the utility was affected by the refusal of many customers to pay their bills. Only a small part of the invoiced consumption was collected as a result and often with considerable delay.
The government of Bangladesh invited international bids for a Pre-payment Metering Pilot Project in the city of Chittagong for 13,000 BPDB consumers for three different 11kV feeders. Feeders with high losses and poor revenue collection were identified for the pre-payment project which was funded by the Federal Republic of Germany in the form of a grant from KfW Bank. Consultants to BPDB for the project were Fichtner, Germany and UDS, South Africa. Liberty was positioned against a strong competition of established meter vendors from across the globe. Liberty worked on a different technology, which was not the norm. It helped the utility in better revenue management and end users by providing easy to understand usage information and it gave them more choice. Consultants from Germany and South Africa voted for Liberty, evaluating its benefits against others and choosing it as the solution to address the challenges of Chittagong city.
Liberty played an important role in solving the problem and bringing about a major transformation in the Bangladesh power sector
Liberty played an important role in solving the problem and bringing about a major transformation in the Bangladesh power sector. Today, currency based pre-payment metering has become the national standard for all present and future roll-outs. The benefits from the project have ensured significant reduction in non-technical and commercial losses. It has also increased customer satisfaction. After project implementation, revenue improvement was approx. 30%, energy savings were around 15%, and reduction in peak demand was 16%.
Senior Vice President Asia, KFW Development Bank, Mr. UHE OHLS stated “KFW as a development bank is very impressed by the success of this project.”
Mr. Robert Samson, Senior Project Manager of Fichtner, Germany stated “We expect PRI’s Liberty system will make life easier for consumers, and will also bring significant benefits for BPDB. I am impressed by the consumer awareness program that PRI is running to create understanding of the new system.”
Technical Project Consultant, Mr. Keith Galatis of UDS said “PRI’s On-Line Liberty system is the only keypad pre-payment system with two-way capability. I am impressed with PRI’s elegant solutions for implementation of the turnkey project with efficient deployment of delayed tariffs and their capability of deploying complex slab or time-of-use tariffs in pre-payment mode.”
According to Mr. A. M. Khurshedul Alam, Project Director for BPDB - “BPDB wanted a contractor that had a good reputation and worldwide experience with the capability to deliver a long term solution with ongoing benefits to the utility and its consumers. We were surprised that any single company could meet all of our demanding requirements. PRI’s experience in revenue protection, energy auditing of distribution systems and innovative payment solutions were important in making our selection. Other keypad pre-payment systems were evaluated but we considered that they were not able to meet the specific needs of Time of Use and of money based displays.”
Considering the overall success of the project, BPDB has extended the contract in 2013 for another period of 5 years.
2007 West Bengal State Electicity Distribution Company (WBSEDC)
A noticeable reduction in energy consumption (approx. 46%) was observed with the use of Liberty Liberty slowly and gradually started making its mark in different parts of the globe - from Northern Ireland to New Zealand, to the Middle East to Bangladesh.
Pre-payment metering as a concept has often been difficult for utilities, regulators and consumers to accept voluntarily. At times, the policy and regulatory aspects don’t necessarily create an environment that is conducive to the introduction of pre-payment. For example in India, utilities have been reluctant to adopt pre-payment technology citing various reasons - it was difficult to create an acceptance for Liberty from a policy, tariff and legal standpoint.
Liberty was presented, demonstrated, and tried out in various utilities in India. After a trial installation in 2005 which showed substantial reduction of energy consumption, pre-paid meters were rolled out in 2007. The regulator offered a rebate to the consumers who opted into the programme. The regulator, whilst focused on the consumer’s interests, could foresee the value in introducing pre-payment metering. In 2005, before WBSEDCL decided to implement pre-paid metering, a sample study on consumption was carried out at the project site, Greenwood Park, New Town, Kolkata. A noticeable reduction in energy consumption (approx. 46%) was observed with the use of Liberty. Liberty pre-payment system was featured on NDTV News, in their ‘Value for Money’ programme, with positive reviews and feedback from Liberty users.
During that time, it was also given a lot of attention in print media and was covered by major newspapers like The Economic Times, The Times of India, and The Telegraph etc.
WBSEDCL has set up vending stations, one managed departmentally by WBSEDCL (at their head office), Salt Lake and the other with their franchisee NTESC, in New Town. Today, tens of thousands of consumers are using Liberty in the New Town and Salt Lake area, and it has helped them to budget for electricity, to reduce their energy consumption and to reduce their costs.
2007 Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL)
Liberty was the most appropriate solution to address the challenges the utility was facing and it helped to recover/minimise bad debts Tata Power Delhi (erstwhile NDPL or North Delhi Power Ltd) initiated pre-payment technology trials in 2005, and in 2007 the New Delhi government mandated that all government buildings would be fitted with pre-payment meters. Liberty was the most appropriate solution to address the challenges the utility was facing and it helped to recover/minimise bad debts.
The utility was both unable to collect dues from government departments and unable to disconnect them. Payments were frequently delayed because bills could not be verified. At times, it was unclear which department was responsible for payment. As a result the utility was facing financial difficulties.
With the introduction of pre-payment metering, arrears reduced because supply to the building disconnected automatically, without any external intervention, if the meter was not in credit.
2007 Reliance (BSES) The utility has found the system useful to manage its arrears and to manage its customers more effectively The first Liberty order from BSES Reliance for pilot pre-payment was received in 2007. The success of the pilot resulted in future roll-outs. BRPL (BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd), BYPL (BSES Yamuna Power Ltd) found the technology useful, and over the years ~20K users have started using Liberty. While it has provided convenience to the end users, the utility has found the system useful to manage its arrears and to manage its customers more effectively. 2008 A million transactions monthly
For the first time, the Liberty transaction servers reached the rare milestone of 1million transactions in a month. For the team, who had worked hard on the Liberty system, this was a proud moment because they crossed this landmark a year earlier than planned. Today the count is over 4 million vending transactions every month.
2008 CESC The synergy between CESC and Secure helped to deliver a web based vending platform in a record 2 months Calcutta Electric Supply Company (CESC) conducted a trial in 2008 engaging selected consumers. After implementation of over 100 Liberty users, they wanted to roll-out online vending for the convenience of consumers. Discussions with CESC were held for implementation of web vending support through CESC’s web portal (www.cesc.co.in). The project started in April 2012. The synergy between CESC and Secure helped to deliver a web based vending platform in a record 2 months. This was the first implementation by an Indian utility for online vending for Liberty.
A project that started with 117 meters now has ~40K Liberty users
A pilot project to deploy 117 pre-payment meters began in Assam in 2008. The pilot was very successful, and the utility gradually rolled out a large number of pre-payment meters in the Guwahati area. A project that started with 117 meters now has ~40K Liberty users. Both the geography and demography of the north eastern region are challenging, and it is worth mentioning, that a persistent and efficient Liberty support team has been put in place for handling customer issues. The team interacts regularly with the utility to increase their understanding of the system. This has helped the penetration of Liberty in the area. APDCL was the second utility, in India, to have pre-paid meter vending using their web site, CESC being the first.
Utilita has been using Liberty with great success both for its customers and for its business
Utilita is one of the leading suppliers of pre-payment gas & electricity in UK with the ‘lowest cost to serve’ a customer. Utilita has been using Liberty with great success both for its customers and for its business. Today Utilita has hundreds of thousands of Liberty users.
The vast majority of the UK population pays for their gas and electricity via direct debit, waiting for a bill every quarter which arrives after the energy has been used. This makes it very difficult to understand what you are using until a huge bill arrives. 19% of people in the UK (roughly 10 million) use pre-payment meters to pay for their energy and this number is expected to rise. Furthermore a disproportionate number of pre-payment meter users are on low incomes.
Liberty was introduced by Utilita for its customers, way back in 2008. Since then, the concept has become very popular with its ‘fuel poor’ customers.
Fuel poverty, a distinct issue from poverty generally, is driven by three differing factors: household income, energy prices and the energy efficiency of the property. Households are considered by the government to be in ‘fuel poverty’ if fuel costs to keep their home in a satisfactory and livable condition are above the national average.
Liberty has been instrumental in reducing fuel poverty.
2009 DR invoked for the first time
For the first time since Liberty came online (9 years ago) the disaster recovery (DR) was invoked and to everyone’s surprise, it was carried out with a downtime of less than 30 minutes. Our biggest customer at that time, NIE was very pleased that all went well.
2011 Web based Liberty launch
Making Liberty deployments convenient around the world
The web based Liberty system was launched in 2011, to enable large numbers of geographically dispersed real estate customers across the world. This made the deployment of Liberty system easier to manage, as it eliminated the need for the installation of Liberty client software on desktops. Web based vending brought in the convenience of an easy to use, yet highly secure system for the generation of vend tokens, making Liberty deployments convenient around the world.
2011 Integration of multi-fuel - electricity, heat and water meter
To have a multi-fuel system supported by Liberty, was something big, something different and was much needed by Liberty customers
The Liberty family covers a wide range of prepayment applications, from traditional single-phase through to multi-fuel (electricity, gas and heat) metering installations. Liberty extended its support for dual fuel in 2006, when it started supporting gas meters using the same Liberty platform.
The gas meters can be used as part of a dual fuel smart meter installation, in which case credit can be seamlessly transferred by GSM/GPRS signals without any intervention from the consumer. In addition to the prepayment function, the shut-off valve can be operated remotely in an emergency.
In 2007, a demonstration to show the benefits that smart metering could deliver to the domestic consumer was given to Elliot Morley, who was UK Government Minister for Climate Change and Environment at that time.
The Minister was very impressed with both the data available on the IQ+ display and the fact that he would be able to see his consumption patterns on the Internet. He said “I would like to have one of these in my home so that I could prove that my heating controls are working properly”.
Secure completed its first multi-fuel installations, heat, electricity and water, for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD) in 2011. To have a multi-fuel system supported by Liberty, was something big, something different and was much needed by Liberty customers.
Customers have found pre-payment the most convenient way to purchase electricity and have developed the habit of paying for it.
This North Eastern state had one of the highest AT&C losses. The Chief Minister was determined to improve things and set the SEB to deploy pre-payment metering in the state. Liberty was used in their first trial area where losses were >70%; losses halved. Most importantly though, customers have found pre-payment the most convenient way to purchase electricity and have developed the habit of paying for it.
Today, there are over 150K Liberty users.
Lt. General NK Singh (Director General of Indian Army in the North East), said with reference to Manipur “The Manipur electricity situation has been totally transformed by your pre-payment meters and as a result the economic situation is improving and people are a lot happier. This helps the peace process. “ General Singh recommended use of these meters in all north eastern states including Nagaland at the North East Council meeting.
An excerpt from the article, ‘An experiment with Power - prepaid electricity in Manipur reduces power theft; improves supply,’ written by Mr. Bibek Debroy:
“People have been jailed for stealing electricity and tampering with meters. The power situation has improved. Collections from payments of electricity bills have increased. At the same time, demand for electricity has reduced by 50 per cent and tripping incidents have become rarer. The number of consumers has also gone up. One should reiterate that this is an increase in the number of legal consumers. There is better planning — on the supply side — and there is no need for VIP lines (those guaranteed uninterrupted power supply regardless of what was happening in the rest of Manipur).
My respondents — not just people who work for the government — told me all this with a sense of pride. If consumers know exactly how much electricity they are consuming (there are instant alerts) and how much that costs (not quite the same with post-paid bills), they are more judicious in using electricity.”
2013 Oman, Middle East
The Liberty system delivered to its expectations, and the utility decided to roll it out to a large number of customers A successful pilot was carried out in Oman for the Liberty pre-payment metering system in 2013. The project was launched to help the utility address metering challenges for temporary connections, non-paying customers and tenanted properties. The Liberty system delivered to its expectations, and the utility decided to roll it out to a large number of customers. The Liberty system was launched as ‘Sabiq’ (in Arabic, one of the meanings is ‘first’). Thousands of meters have been installed in phases since 2014.
After the success of Liberty at MEDC, the Electricity Holding Company of Muscat called for a nationwide pilot of pre-payment metering. Today Liberty pre-payment vending is supported by more than 60 online vending stations in Muscat. To provide further convenience for its Liberty users, the utility launched a mobile application for vending of electricity pre-payment vouchers.
2014 Launch of Liberty 100 - the only fully compliant SMETS1 kit
The Liberty 100 solution is truly innovative and has been tested to collect data from more than 1 million metering points within minutes Liberty kept changing its avatar based on the needs of its global customers. Initially, from empowering users to manage and control their electricity usage using the iconic keypad, it helped them manage remote vending using GSM/GPRS. Gradually it helped them manage multi-fuel applications like usage of electricity, gas and heat.
When the UK government mandated the roll-out of smart meters (the next generation of gas and electricity meters) to give users more control over their energy use, to help them understand their bills (by allowing them to see the cost of energy they use), and enabling them to change supplier, Liberty went through a major transformation.
Unlike the previous Liberty variants, this time, the challenge was high reliability and scalability, considering the product was to be installed across Great Britain in millions of houses (UK plans to have 53 million smart meters by 2020). The new system also needed to gather meter readings remotely from millions of smart meters and to change tariffs, operate pre-pay etc. The system needed to be flexible so that utilities could easily integrate the system within their IT systems. A very low operating cost and the highest levels of data security were key features.
The next generation Liberty, better known as Liberty 100 was born. Liberty 100 became the first SMETS1 compliant smart pre-payment meters in the UK. An innovative and customer friendly smart meter, it has found wide acceptance amongst energy users. The Liberty 100 solution is truly innovative and has been tested to collect data from more than 1 million metering points within minutes. 2014 Meghalaya pre-payment started in Aug/Sept
Gradually as the utility and users started seeing the benefits, more and more users started preferring Liberty pre-payment system.
Shillong, Meghalaya is selected as one of the 100 smart cities project in India. The State Cabinet approved the proposal for installation of a pre-paid metering system in the state, with an aim to realise the revenue on a regular basis, the utility believed it would improve customer service, cash flow and the revenue cycle. The Liberty pre-payment meters were installed in Shillong, towards the end of 2014 and gradually as the utility and users started seeing the benefits, more and more users started preferring Liberty pre-payment system. Liberty was gradually deployed across the state. In Meghalaya there are nearly 5,000 Liberty users.
2015 Winner of the European Smart Metering Award for Data Management Solution of the Year 2015
At the European Smart Metering & Smart Grid Awards held in London Secure’s Liberty 100 system was chosen as the Data Management Solution of the Year 2015, for the retrieval and processing of smart meter data. Nominations for this prestigious award are made by actual users of smart metering / smart grid technologies. An international jury of experts in technology and users selected the winners.
Sanjaya Singhal, Group Chief Executive, Secure Meters group, said “We are delighted that our European customers have bestowed this honour on us. Secure team, committed to our core values of innovation, teamwork, integrity and agility has worked very hard to deliver this complex product. Such accolades are a huge encouragement for us to perform even better.”
The team heard positive reviews from both utility engineers as well as users.
The initial success of Liberty in West Bengal drew the attention of various utilities to the new payment system. In 2012, UP was facing challenges with its energy shortage, metering, billing and collecting revenue from its consumers.
CMD, UPPCL instructed its team to visit West Bengal and study the pre-payment system. The team heard positive reviews from both utility engineers as well as users. They found the load limiting switch in Liberty very useful for limiting excessive demand. Having talked to consumers, they saw strong evidence of budgeting, load limiting and energy conservation.
UPPCL engineers concluded that pre-paid meters can help in managing the power shortage problems faced in UP, apart from proving much cheaper for consumers. Seeing the benefits Liberty could offer, UPPCL team strongly recommended that the utility implement pre-paid metering for the following consumers in the first phase, and on priority- mobile towers, temporary connections, government and non-government colonies, multi-point connections in multi-storey buildings, theft prone areas etc.
Based on recommendations a detailed study was carried out to address inherent challenges related to the IT system, regulatory issues and tariff implementation. Appropriate actions were put in place. Liberty meters were installed in various cities in 2015 and there are currently over 5000 Liberty users using pre-payment electricity.
2016 A milestone: 1,000,000 meters in Great Britain
On 5th February, 2016, we achieved the milestone of 1,000,000 Liberty 100 meters in Great Britain. This was an absolutely amazing feat and one that makes each member proud to be a Semsite! It is the result of collaboration across the group and everyone in the organisation has had a role to play in it.
2016 Ghana, Africa
Liberty makes its first large scale presence in the African continent
The Electricity Company of Ghana has been using pre-paid meters since 1994. The meters have been changed frequently, due to changes in technology and most of them were not designed to be future proof. In the last few years, ECG has been struggling to cope with so many customers tampering with their meters and stealing electricity. Moreover, customers are complaining about lack of transparency in the way their money is deducted by the pre-paid meters. More and more customers are reluctant to clear their debt, which is making life difficult for ECG.
ECG heard about our advanced Liberty pre-payment system, and having studied its benefits decided to run a pilot for 50 meters. This was successful, as it addressed most of their challenges, and also the design is future proof. ECG’s evaluation helped them make a strategic decision to try out Liberty. An initial order for 10K Liberty meters has been placed by ECG, and based on the field results, Liberty could be deployed on a much larger scale. With this, Liberty makes its first large scale presence in the African continent.
- About us
- Where we operate
- What we do
- Innovation and R&D
- Our beliefs
- Management and board
- Our history
- Who we are
- Our brands
- Key facts & figures
- A responsible business
- Insights and news
- Contact us
- Generation: Electricity
- Transmission: Electricity
- Distribution: Electricity
- Industrial and commercial
- Water utility
- PT1 - single phase multi-function transducer
- PT1 single function discrete transducer
- PT3 Single function - discrete transducer
- PT3 multi-function programmable transducer
- Credit Metering
- Renewable Metering
- Prepayment Metering
- Smart Metering - Electricity
- Smart Metering- Gas
- Dual fuel solution - Electricity and Gas