How data is revolutionising Malaysia’s electricity sector

Interview with Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s Chief Information Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

In February, the state of Texas suffered a major power outage due to winter storms, leaving millions without power for up to two weeks. That indirectly led to over a hundred deaths in the extreme weather, reported the Associated Press. A reliable electricity supply is more crucial than ever, especially as more people shift to work remotely during the pandemic. Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Malaysia’s sole utility provider, is using data to ensure this. Datuk Fazil bin Ibrahim and Nazmi bin Othman, the Chief Information Officer and Chief Financial Officer of TNB, shares how data has helped them identify power supply issues and monitor targets such as revenue and profits. Providing reliable electricity TNB uses data to manage electricity supply and maintain its power grids. “Data is critical to make sure that our plants are transmitting power reliably,” says Datuk Fazil. Striking a balance between electricity demand and supply from power plants is key as excess electricity cannot be stored, he adds. TNB’s headquarters studies data to forecast demand and plans for electricity to be dispatched accordingly. TNB will also readjust the amount of electricity dispatched to match real-time demand. This helps to eliminate energy wastage and reduce cost. The utility provider collects data from calls reporting power disruptions and shares it with maintenance crews. This data is “very powerful” in helping maintenance teams quickly identify causes of disruption, such as faulty equipment, Datuk Fazil says. Dashboards for performance TNB is also building dashboards to monitor its business performance with Qlik’s data analytics platform. The dashboards comprehensively track actual performance against budgets and targets, which help to drive the right focus and actions to close performance gaps. Accuracy and timeliness are crucial to monitor business performance, but previously this data was stored and extracted from different platforms. The dashboard now acts as the go-to source of performance data, such as revenue, cost and profit after tax. This has helped the company “visualise information” and make business decisions with greater accuracy and speed, says Datuk Fazil. The dashboard also acts as an automated reporting system which saves thousands of hours each year. The dashboard, for instance, can analyse maintenance costs by location, types of work, and break down of cost components. This has helped TNB identify patterns and take early preventive measures. What’s next? “We are operating under a new reality that puts great strain on the system,” Datuk Fazil says. Technology has helped to ensure TNB’s systems remain resilient during the pandemic and beyond. TNB hopes to utilise Qlik’s dashboard in other domains such as procurement, he adds. Other tools such as Tenaga Space Apps, an application to access the company’s intranet sites securely, and MyTNB Cloud have been extremely crucial during the pandemic for document management and exchange. TNB is also working to install smart meters across the country. This enables customers to continue receiving actual readings during the pandemic, as staff cannot go door-to-door to perform meter reads and provide bills. The smart meters also allow customers to track their energy usage through the myTNB app, giving them more control. Apart from improving customer experience, smart meter data will also help TNB optimise its power grids. These insights can help improve load planning, prioritisation of projects, enable predictive maintenance of assets as well as quicken response times towards blackout and outages. Data analytics is growing to be an extremely powerful tool for TNB. The ability to monitor electricity supplies and quickly react to performance chokepoints will go a long way in helping it be resilient to future challenges. Images by TNB