How smart is your electricity? Well it turns out, it’s a lot smarter than you might think. Energy Watch recently enjoyed a fascinating catch-up with IR. DR. Mohd. Fadzil Mohd. Siam, General Manager of Transmission and Distribution at TNB Research Sdn. Bhd., to find out just how clever it can get.
Malaysia’s modern electricity ecosystem is a story of smart grid technology, rapidly responding intelligent networks, and even lighting experts! So let’s dive into the amazing world of smart electricity, with 5 fascinating facts from our interview.
How smart is a smart grid? Smart enough to fix itself. That means when there’s a problem, a truly smart grid not only knows where that problem is, it reroutes the power to ensure you enjoy an uninterrupted electricity supply.
“So what happens is during this failure, a self-healing grid will detect there is an event, and then it will automatically isolate the failing system, and then control and switch the customer to a new supply. Technically we call it FLISR. Fault Location, Isolation and Service Restoration. So basically if there is a fault, you isolate the customer, and connect a new supply. But the faulty part is still there. That’s where the sensors and controls can capture everything.”
Modern energy networks aren’t built on one-directional travel. Not only does the network deliver electricity to your home, it can help you communicate your consumption needs and trends back to the operator.
“It will be bi-directional in the sense that people won’t just use the electricity, but at the same time customers can be proactive based on their appliances, communicating with the grid, together with the sensors, helping to notify the utility if there are any issues or disturbances. And the smart grid infrastructure will communicate to help improve optimisation of the grid itself. From the customer’s point of view, this also helps improve energy efficiency.
Electricity transmission can be prone to losses, and tackling those losses is an important part of an efficient network. Smart grids not only help tackle technical challenges, they’re also helping tackle theft.
Smart grids not only help tackle technical challenges, they also help tackle theft.
“Smart grids can reduce losses within our grid. Over the last 6 or 7 years our losses have reduced from about 10% to 8%. One element of this is technical losses, that means losses through the conductor, the transformer, and other network components. Other losses are non-technical, so things like theft and unmetered usage of electricity. With real-time data from the smart grid we can undertake comprehensive monitoring, so we know from the date, the time the power is generated, and monitor and measure its use.”
TNB Research’s work shows that smart grid adoption isn’t just about smart technology solutions, it’s about communicating and educating consumers to make smart decisions. Smart consumers make for a smarter network.
“There are many elements to this, so we need to have the communication ready. ICT is the universe today, and that can help empower the customer. We need to provide the framework to educate customers, because their awareness is an important part of this. It’s not just technology, but customer reception that’s also very important.”
That’s right – TNB Research has genuine lightning experts! Why you ask? Because Malaysia has the third highest frequency of lightning strikes That dancing electricity in the sky causes some real trouble for electricity networks on the ground, and smart grid technology is helping tackle that.
“We have lightning on almost a daily basis. That can interfere with our transmission. When there is a strike, a short time later there’s a disruption. The customer might not notice it, but that’s because we have protection in place. We have a team here that are focused on monitoring and providing protection from lightning. We can detect lightning activity across the whole Peninsular Malaysia. Prediction at the moment is below an hour mark, but we’re hoping we can extend our capabilities to a few hours.”