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Optimal Energy Rationing For Prepaid Electricity Customers
For a large (and recently increasing) number of households, affordability is a major hurdle in accessing sufficient electricity and avoiding service disconnections. For such households, in-home energy rationing, i.e. the need to actively prioritize how to use a limited amount of electricity, is an everyday reality. In this paper, we consider a particularly vulnerable group of customers, namely prepaid electricity customers, who are required to pay for their electricity a-priori. With this group of customers in mind, we propose an optimization-based energy management framework to effectively use a limited budget and avoid the disruptions and fees associated with disconnections. The framework considers forecasts of future use and knowledge of appliance power ratings to help customers prioritize and limit use of low-priority loads, with the goal of extending access to their critical loads. Importantly, the proposed management system has minimal requirements in terms of in-home hardware and remote communication, lending itself well to adoption across different regions and utility programs. Our case study demonstrates that by considering both current and future electricity consumption and more effectively managing access to low-priority loads, the proposed framework increases the value provided to customers and avoids disconnections.