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An Energy Trilemma in Three Parts: Insight from CEPSI 2018

Energy has a problem, and it’s a problem in three parts. How do we ensure continued energy security, as well as widespread affordability, while simultaneously supporting a more sustainable world?

Welcome to the energy trilemma.

The energy trilemma is not a new challenge for the electricity supply industry, but it is one with rapidly evolving dimensions. So it comes as no surprise that the energy trilemma formed a key part of the discussion at the recent CEPSI 2018 event. Here’s what the leaders and experts of the industry had to say, with an introduction by Malaysian Energy Minister Yeo Bee Yin.

“As a Minister of Energy, as much as I would like to save the environment, it’s also important to sustain the well-being of people. As we make our decisions in the air conditioned rooms here…. I would like to challenge all leaders to also remember people at the bottom of the pyramid… These are the people we need to keep in mind. Because when we talk about the electricity industry, we put the service in, to make it the electricity service industry. And these are the people we serve.”

1. Affordability

Affordability is a key foundation of the energy trilemma. Access to electricity is an established human right, so how do we build the right ecosystem to ensure appropriate access for all members of society?

“Affordability is also a challenge for us. We are a developing country, Malaysia and other ASEAN countries, and one of the things we need to do is this… not to say we can’t give affordable electricity to the people, but ask ourselves how do we make the market more efficient. How do we use technologies to be more efficient, to deliver affordable electricity to the people.”
– Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysian Energy Minister

“With blockchain technology, consumers can now be their own retailer and generator, with a mini-wholesale spot market operating within a subdivision, an estate, a neighbourhood. What we could see is a rise in individuals, developers and local councils installing solar and battery, where they’re able to generate and store power cheaply, off-peak or by solar, and make a profit by selling this at peak periods.”
– Gavin D. Barfield, Chief Technology Advisor (CTA), Meralco

Gavin Barfield presenting his keynote speech at CEPSI 2018

“We’re still a partially subsidised system, with the cost of gas subsidised to a degree by government. Because of this, the cost of renewables that come into the system… there’s a small difference the system has to pay. If the generation cost of a renewable, and grid price, is slightly lower, this difference in price will have to be met by the general government through ICPT or IBR. Until such time as we have true market pricing for the system, the interchangeability will not be so significant, or as encouraging.”
– Dato’ Abdul Razak Bin Abdul Majid, Chairman, Energy Council of Malaysia

2. Security

An efficient electricity supply isn’t just about the cost of access, it’s about ensuring that access is reliable and secure. Technology is playing an increasingly important part in that.

“We don’t have the flexibility to remove large parts of our power. We’re not like Europe, where the interconnection between nations allows free import from one end to the other. And different time zones exist between the European countries also allows peak hours to be different and to share peak loads. We don’t have that, so we just have to depend on ourselves for total support.”
– Dato’ Abdul Razak

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms are able to learn and analyse massive quantities of data from satellites, weather stations and sensors, to determine patterns and foresee weather events that could impact energy generation.”
– Gavin D. Barfield

“From the customer’s point of view, we now have passive customers turning into active producers. The word consumers is now replaced by prosumers. And with their own generation, their own microgrids, it will be a different landscape for energy tomorrow. The energy landscape is going to become more and more customer-centric, and this is what is leading the energy revolution.”
– Indranil Lahiri, President & CEO, Siemens Malaysia


3. Sustainability

The electricity supply industry has more than just a commitment to consumers, it has a commitment to promote an efficient ecosystem that supports a more sustainable world.

“There are already numerous Artificial Intelligence (AI) use cases in the energy sector. One is around renewable management, especially for forecasting. I think system operators will be much more accepting of renewables if they know that power generation can be ramped up quickly in times of short supply.”
– Gavin D. Barfield

“Our country, and the world, need to de-carbonise. But we cannot de-carbonise by sacrificing economic growth. The answer to this is electrification in sectors that we have not imagined before, that can be electrified in a big-scale manner. Continuous global economic growth and decarbonisation cannot be done without electrification.”
– Yeo Bee Yin

“Energy could be one of the richest sectors for Internet of Things (IOT) implementation. Today, more connected facilities, intelligent buildings and industry environments rely on smart meter energy consumption. Digital luminescence, smart lighting systems for industrial and commercial buildings, aims to deliver savings of up to 90% on lighting using a centralised control platform relying on many, many sensors to create this intelligent, highly automated system for cost effective and energy saving lighting control.”
– Gavin D. Barfield

Meeting the challenge of the energy trilemma

As with her opening words, the closing words of Malaysian Energy Minister Yeo Bee Yin provide a fitting summary of the path ahead for the electricity supply industry.

“To quote Albert Einstein – ‘the true measure of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination’. So I would encourage all of us to be able to reimagine… to imagine a future where we have an industry that will still leave the world a better place for the next generation. We want a better life for everyone for a brighter future.”

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