The electricity grid is the backbone of a nation’s electricity supply. This complex network of electricity substations, transformers, and power lines is responsible for transporting electricity from generation to end-user consumption and everything else in between.
In Malaysia, that network includes over 700,000 km of transmission cables both above and below ground, and over 130,000 electricity substations. That’s an extremely complex ecosystem to manage and maintain.
An effective, modern grid system is fundamental to an efficient and sustainable national electricity landscape. That increasingly means embracing opportunities like a digitally-enabled smart grid, while improving transmission line capacity to meet growing electricity demand. Here are 8 key benefits of a modernised electricity grid.
Replacing old electricity grid infrastructure with smart grid networks and modern transmission lines is an important step to improve the efficiency of transmission. That means reducing electricity losses from things like older cabling, faulty lines, and even theft.
Efficient transmission is important because it means we benefit from more of the electricity we generate. That’s particularly valuable in the context of energy efficiency, and making the most of the resources we have.
Identifying faults isn’t just an important part of efficiency, it’s also essential to making sure citizens receive their electricity in a trusted and reliable way. With over 700,000 km of transmission cables, alongside millions of interconnections to houses and businesses, finding a fault in an electricity supply isn’t always easy.
Smart grid infrastructure uses digital technology to quickly identify and pinpoint the source of a fault. That’s particularly important in a country like Malaysia, which records the third-highest lightning strikes of any nation on Earth! Whether it’s a lightning strike or a tree falling on a line, smart grids allow operators to better identify and fix the issue at its source.
Growing the share of renewables is a vital part of any modern electricity ecosystem. While the cost of these technologies is now increasingly competitive, they do create challenges in key parts of power generation – predictability and integration.
Renewables such as wind and solar represent what is known as a ‘variable’ generation technology. That means you can’t accurately predict how much power they might generate on a particular day. When they are generating power, it could fluctuate from one hour to the next depending on factors like strength of the wind or sunlight. Smart grid technologies offer a sophisticated way for grids to identify and balance renewable generation, quickly adapting to generation conditions, and helping balance electricity supply with electricity demand.
This variable generation also creates a technical challenge for integration. The ‘fluctuations’ in variable renewable power generation act almost like a ripple effect on the system – the greater the share of renewables, the more fluctuation, making these ripples grow bigger until they become waves large enough that they could disrupt system operations. Modernisation means investment in a grid that can deal with increasing levels of renewable penetration with no risk of disruption. This includes smarter grid systems, as well as adoption of emerging battery storage technologies.
Meet Growing Demand
Electricity demand is increasing across Southeast Asia at a rate twice the global average. The impressive growth across the region is driving this increase in power supply. This growing electricity demand makes it even more important to have modern power infrastructure that can match it — from high-volume transmission lines to smart grid technology that adapts to integrate both renewable and traditional generation technologies in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Digital technologies are able to provide new solutions on decision making for operators. This combines key elements of demand through technologies like smart meters and smart substations, which provide data on how much and when electricity is consumed.
Sweden is a world leader in smart meters, with over 99% penetration in first-generation technology. Its next-generation smart meter rollout is already underway, with benefits that include deeper insight on consumption for consumers, as well as low-voltage network management for system operators that provides better grid performance analysis and fault detection. The EU has a target of 80% of consumers with smart meters across its economic bloc, but mature European markets aren’t the only leaders in this space, with China expected to have over 640 million smart meters by 2025 as part of its grid modernisation efforts.
This smart oversight is supported by growing understanding of supply through innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence predicting and optimizing electricity generation. This smart end-to-end approach doesn’t just boost efficiency, it boosts oversight, meaning decision makers have the information at their fingertips to make decisions about the electricity ecosystem.
Improved grid infrastructure is an important step to reduce costs for operators. The ability to quickly identify faults reduces costly manual processes in identifying problems. Improved efficiency means less losses and more ‘value for money’ from energy generation.
As we look to the future, better renewable energy integration also means a growing ability to adopt these cost-competitive technologies in an efficient way. All these factors combined contribute to reduced wastage of generated electricity thanks to improved transmission efficiency, alongside lower grid maintenance costs, cutting costs for operators.
Balancing Prices Long-term for Customers
Modern grid infrastructure that improves efficiency and reduces waste doesn’t just mean savings for operators. Customers will also see the long-term knock-on benefits of reduced costs in energy transmission networks and improved renewable integration. That requires a committed investment pathway to succeed.
Modernisation of grid infrastructure inevitably requires investment to start, which will demand upfront capital to drive through transformation. However, the long-term efficiency and maintenance savings should ultimately help contribute towards keeping prices low for customers.
When it comes to energy, you can’t overlook the importance of security. That’s a word with many different, and important, meanings.
Grid modernisation is an essential part of any modern economy.
Security means networks with the latest cybersecurity software to protect from outside threats such as hackers or bad actors. Security means a reliable supply that ensures vital industries and businesses can trust in the electricity that keeps them running. And security means a backbone for a national energy infrastructure fit for the future, ready to adopt the latest in renewable technologies, which ensures an optimised energy ecosystem that promotes energy efficiency and reliable power for a nation.
Grid modernisation is an essential part of any modern economy. It’s also a key turning point of a successful energy transition. Smart, modern grid infrastructure will boost reliability and support business operations, ensure secure power for citizens, and enable Malaysia to manage a sustainable energy transition for the future.