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An efficient method for capacitor placement and network reconfiguration is presented in this paper to reduce energy loss in distribution networks over intervals of time. The concept of system state characterization and its relevant algorithm are introduced in order to develop a general, analytical method for solving network reconfiguration and capacitor placement problems and determining the conditions for energy loss minimization. Consequently, the computational effort required in solving such large-scale dynamic optimization problems is decreased greatly by converting the original problems into some simpler static optimization problems with appropriate linearization and stepwise correction idea. Based on sensitivity analysis, loop-analysis and superimpose theorem, the problem formulations are set in a realistic and robust framework so that the method is applicable to various electrical networks with complete or incomplete measurement allocations. A case study of IEEE 33-bus system demonstrates the rationality and validity of strategies proposed in this paper, and the results illustrate that this approach has a substantial reduction in computational expense while maintaining a high level of accuracy.