In our afternoon Design Public sessions, we broke out into innovation groups around different design challenges and had our participants brainstorm new ideas. The sessions were great, and produced some really interesting new ideas.
One session took a look at the issue of power theft, and we ended up generating a number of interesting concepts for addressing the problem.
Click through to check out how we approached the subject and what we came up with.
We had three quick objectives for our workshop:
- To briefly understand the challenge of power theft.
- To quickly ideate possible solutions.
- To identify and present the most promising solutions.
The workshop began with a preliminary post-it session. We asked the participants who they thought stole power, and we pretty quickly realized that we assumed just about everybody stole power – the wealthy, the poor, individuals, industries, migrant workers, people throwing weddings.Â Several of the participants admitted to having stolen power themselves.
We tried to envision reasons why a person would steal power, and we came up with a bunch: to save money, to earn money (by then redistributing the power), because there wasn’t a simple legal source of power, because you couldn’t afford it, because it was simply a social habit you had become accustomed to. Throughout this process, we were able to bounce questions off of a representative of North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) who had joined in the process.
From there, we started brainstorming new ways to curb theft of power. Though we broke up into small groups to work on the project, we noticed that many of projects gravitated towards the idea of relying on community-based models to help curb theft. Here are our main ideas and observations:
-Community-Centered Distribution – One model that we came up with revolved around creating a center in various communities that would be responsible for distributing power. A panel of community members would be able to divide the community up into subsets and adjust the payments of different groups in order to make sure people were paying a realistic amount for their energy.
–Focus on electricians – Several of our participants recommended that one method of curbing power theft would be to concentrate efforts on the electricians (amateur or otherwise) who are presumably necessary to create illegal power connections or manipulate power meters.
Focusing on electricians could come in the form of positive incentives or negative incentives. Power suppliers could find ways to incentivize electricians to work as legitimate parts of the power companies, or could make it especially unfavorable for electricians to create illegal connections.
–Visual markings for offending households – In this suggestion, houses that were paying their bills tagged in some way, and likewise,Â houses that were stealing power would be tagged, either by community members or by people employed by the power company. The idea would be to create a sense of social pressure on people stealing power, since power theft leads to higher power rates for everyone. It’s an idea that is certain to be hated by many power customers, but an interesting concept nonetheless.
These are just a sampling of the ideas we worked on. In the brainstorming process, we ran through a number of other options (some seriously, some not-so-seriously) including:
- finding a way to get housemaids to snitch on the houses they work for
- covering meters with religious symbols to make people less likely to deface them
- offering pre-paid power supplies
- installing an alarm system that alerts a community when an illegal connection was made to their power supply
Power theft is too large and complicated a problem to solve in an afternoon, but this session was a great chance to brainstorm new ideas and demonstrate the ideation process to a number of people who had never been exposed to it before.