PETALING JAYA: A flexible and resilient power grid will be essential for the transition to clean energy and the electrification of the Malaysian economy.
While energy transition and climate change are secular trends that present challenges and opportunities in areas like electrification, generation, and storage, substantial investment will be needed to upgrade the current energy distribution and transmission grid through digitalisation to meet the relationship between renewable sources and the growing demand from customers.
“The digital journey can start with smart metering, which will tell the power company what’s happening with the customer and if there are also power quality issues that will help you deliver faster maintenance and repairs, while substations and network instrumentation will have to be more intelligent to know how the network is behaving,” said Rene Kerkmeester, global vice-president at Capgemini Smart Grid, at the Energy Transition Conference 2023 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The decentralised energy system of the future will require a completely new system topology and more intelligence at the substations, he said.
Kerkmeester said the power utility’s control room of the future will need to integrate information technology and operational technology systems along with artificial intelligence (AI) to process the vast data from the network. Thus, he added, the asset management function will also be completely changed.
The International Energy Agency has estimated that for every dollar invested in renewables, roughly three dollars need to be spent on the grid.
The smart grid could play a supporting role in energy efficiency under the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR), which is expected to attract some RM25bil in investments.
With energy demand in South-East Asia forecast to be four times higher in 2050 as a result of population growth and gross domestic product, a significant amount of money will need to be invested in the grid as some 70% of the demand for power will be met with renewable sources like solar and wind.
“What we expect to happen is that there will be a need to put in a significant amount of new cables and strike a balance between having a bigger grid and a smarter grid. So huge amounts of investments will go into digitalisation to make our grids smart,” said Dr Matthew Rowe, director at Power Grids, Asia Pacific DNV – Energy Systems.
The smart grid will allow power companies to transition from reactive asset management to more predictive and preventive asset management.
Rowe said power utilities will be able to actively manage distribution networks with the help of advanced analytics and algorithms, which will also help reduce operations and maintenance costs, increase power plant efficiency, look at better ways of dispatching energy, and see control rooms equipped with more sophisticated forecasting methods to make better informed decisions.
Unpredictable fluctuations from renewable supplies and dynamic demand can stress power company assets and age them prematurely.
The grid could also move from smart to intelligent with the rise of the metaverse, said Edwin Diender, chief innovation officer, Electric Power Digitalisation Business Unit at Huawei Enterprise Business Group.
He said Huawei’s strengths in data management, data mobility, data transmission, data storage, and data analytics can help power companies with their energy management, energy storage, energy mobility, energy distribution and analytics.
By adding a layer of intelligent productivity, Diender said the power ecosystem could potentially have the opportunity to create itself as a worldwide web of energy.
Energy storage, or battery storage, will be the next big thing for the grid, as storage can play an important role in enabling flexibility within an energy system.
As conventional generation gets turned off, the power grid will likely become less stable, and with storage assets being able to respond very quickly, that will help address the energy issues of security, sustainability and affordability, the participants stated.