Ingenieur Vol. 75 ingenieur July 2018-FA - Page 44

INGENIEUR Impact of Disruptive Technologies on Electricity Grid Infrastructure By Ir. Dr Amir Basha Ismail S ince the start of the Industrial Revolution more than 250 years ago, the global economy has been on a steep growth trajectory propelled by a series of advances in technology, as shown in Figure 1. From steam powered engines that replaced water mills, to electricity, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, transistors, computers and the internet, each new wave of technology has brought about surges in productivity and economic growth, enabling efficient new methods for performing existing tasks and giving rise to entirely new types of businesses. General purpose technologies such as steam power can be applied across economies which have massive and disruptive effects, as do internal combustion engines, electricity and the Internet. In the context of this article, the science, engineering and technology platform underpinning the electricity supply industry (ESI) has been steadily powering growth and transforming economies of most nations. The ESI powering the growth of a nation, including Malaysia, has been achieved through conventional, well- planned, centralised large-scale fossil-fuelled electricity generating stations and the associated high-voltage national power grid comprising the transmission and distribution network. The national power grid is highly robust, secure and reliable in terms of demand (load), dispatch and delivery to industrial, commercial or residential 6 42 VOL VOL 75 55 JULY-SEPTEMBER JUNE 2013 2018 consumers. The ESI has not experienced any real disruptive business environments in the past, even though the electronic data processing/number- crunching power of computer technologies has become extremely powerful in an inverse relationship to its physical hardware size. However, today many rapidly evolving potentially disruptive technologies are appearing on the horizon. For the energy/electricity sector, the disruptive technologies that can significantly impact the future ESI business environment are: • Renewable and Distributed Generation (high variability and uncertainty) • Energy Storage System (high efficiency) • Smart Grid • Internet-of-Things Electricity, which is electromagnetism-based, at the point-of-use will undoubtedly continue to be numero uno in terms of energy use in the 21st century and beyond, compared with other forms of hydrocarbon-based energy usage. Electricity delivers a precision that is unmatched by any other form of energy and it is almost infinitely versatile in how it can be utilised. Electricity has a unique characteristic however, once it is generated it has to be consumed, at the same point in time, the demand for it must be balanced exactly and simultaneously by its generation so that the 50 Hertz system frequency is maintained at all times. Future energy/electricity grid systems including those in Malaysia, will need to have high levels