TNB focuses on new technologies


Tenaga Nasional president and chief executive officer Datuk Baharin Din

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) will begin repowering its power plants to green technology options starting 2035, partially relying on gas as transitional fuel when it scales up the new green technologies.

The 2030s will also see the coal plants, which have been operating for decades, being retired.

Concurrently, TNB will establish and grow initiatives in green hydrogen production and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

To achieve net-zero emissions, TNB’s strategy is to repower retired coal and gas plants with combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) using hydrogen-ready technology, which requires a reliable and economically viable supply of green hydrogen, said chief executive officer Datuk Baharin Din.

CCGTs are a form of highly-efficient energy-generation technology.

TNB will commence research and development (R&D) on green hydrogen production with more efficient electrolysers that aim to reduce the levelised cost of energy – the average cost per unit generated – for green hydrogen.

Hydrogen is touted to be the replacement fuel of the future, especially green hydrogen that is produced from renewable energy and has zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Industries, transportation, petrochemicals and power generation are the main sectors that can utilise green hydrogen.

By 2050, Malaysia’s demand for hydrogen can potentially reach three million tonnes per annum (mtpa); the expected demand in Japan is 10 mtpa by 2050, according to its Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

TNB aspires to co-fire natural gas with green hydrogen for cleaner power generation in a re-powered project at the Sultan Ismail Power Station in Paka, Terengganu.

This plant is expected to be commissioned by 2030, and will be fired with 100% natural gas initially upon commissioning.

In parallel, TNB and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (PETRONAS) will be working to build the green hydrogen ecosystem, to be ready by 2030, to include the supply of green electricity, electrolysers, compression, storage and transportation.

Working together

TNB and PETRONAS have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen collaboration in driving innovative solutions towards decarbonisation.

The policy and ecosystem to facilitate and encourage the use of green hydrogen is expected to be in place by 2035.

By then, it is envisaged that the Paka plant can be co-fired with up to 30% of green hydrogen, depending on the level of technology readiness and support from regulators.

The Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Power Station in Kapar, Selangor, is potentially the next power plant that can be re-powered like the one in Paka.

Following the Paka re-powering, TNB, through its wholly-owned subsidiary TNB Genco, will proactively develop new power plants with cleaner fuel and technology.

With the highly efficient and hydrogen-ready technology in the CCGT at the Paka re-powering, it is expected that the carbon emission avoidance will be around 3.2 million tCO2-e per year – a measure of carbon dioxide in several states.

This is equivalent to the impact of about 700,000 cars per year compared to typical ultra-super critical coal plants with similar capacity.

As for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, the aim is to reduce carbon emission by current thermal power plants, especially coal plants, that will only be retired beyond 2035.

CCS is a technology used to stop large amounts of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Feasibility studies

TNB’s feasibility studies will provide the details of how much carbon dioxide can be stored or sequestered per year.

As part of the MoU with PETRONAS, TNB is also exploring other potential technologies, such as CCS, for decarbonisation.

Initially, a joint study will focus on determining which CCS technology is likely to prevail, when the technology will become economically viable and when it can be deployed to TNB’s existing power plants.

TNB’s maiden large-scale solar (LSS) farm in Sepang, in operation since 2019, has exceeded its maximum annual energy declared for two consecutive years through smart-plant management as well as adoption of artificial intelligence and data analytics technologies.

For its first operational year, the solar power plant surpassed its maximum annual energy declared to the offtaker – TNB – by 6% or at more than 110,000 megawatt-hours (MWh).

In 2020, the solar farm generated 108,900MWh or 5% more than declared.

The 30MW LSS Bukit Selambau in Sungai Petani, Kedah, which started commercial operations in September, 2020, is equipped with 134,880 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Renewable energy

In terms of technology for renewable energy, TNB is pursuing a deal flow pipeline of about 3.6 gigawatts (GW) across focused markets to support its growth targets.

In Britain, TNB’s pipeline of 1.6GW is currently 91% under development and 9% already in operation.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the pipeline of 2GW energy is 80% under development, with the other 20% already operational.

With these targets in mind, TNB’s technology focus areas include solar PV that converts sunlight into electrical energy, onshore and offshore wind energy as well as battery storage.

TNB will conduct feasibility studies to determine the best technology options to ensure that the expected cost of energy is competitive, said Baharin.

As TNB starts phasing out coal, and later gas, from its energy generation, consumers will enjoy greener energy consumption.

Modern technologies require investment in R&D; inevitably the average cost per unit generated will increase.

TNB is committed to ensuring that supply of electricity remains not only secure and affordable but also sustainable.

Yap Leng Kuen is a former StarBiz editor. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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