By: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Azree Idris
In a world where connectivity has evolved into the very essence of our daily lives, ensuring equitable access to high-speed internet is no longer merely a matter of convenience but a pivotal driver of progress. Malaysia, like many nations, has come to realize the paramount significance of narrowing the digital divide and wholeheartedly embracing the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) to construct a sustainable and environmentally friendly future. At the intersection of these profound national aspirations, we find Starlink, the groundbreaking satellite internet service initiated by SpaceX’s visionary founder, Elon Musk.
Starlink was granted official approval by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to operate within Malaysia on the 17th of July 2023, following a consequential teleconference between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the enigmatic entrepreneur, Elon Musk. Notably, the Malaysian government has taken proactive measures by procuring 40 Starlink broadband kits for the benefit of educational institutions, signifying a resolute commitment to accelerate digital inclusion across the nation.
A holistic approach to NETR
Malaysia’s National Energy Transition Roadmap outlines a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 45% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This ambitious goal requires a substantial shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. To accomplish this, the roadmap identifies six energy transition levers: energy efficiency, renewable energy, hydrogen, bioenergy, green mobility, and carbon capture and utilization.
Access to high-speed internet is not just a convenience; it’s a catalyst for change. High-speed internet enables efficient data exchange, research collaboration, and the dissemination of knowledge critical to the success of NETR. As Malaysia pivots toward renewable energy, the robust digital infrastructure that Starlink offers becomes a crucial enabler. Whether it’s optimizing energy systems through data analytics, facilitating remote renewable energy projects, or connecting with global clean energy networks, Starlink’s role is pivotal.
The synergy of TNB SCADA and Starlink to achieve NETR milestones
Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Malaysia’s national electricity utility company, has harnessed the power of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) to remotely monitor and control its extensive electrical grid, ensuring seamless operations and rapid response to disruptions. The NETR sets ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy capacity, and transitioning towards a more sustainable energy future. This necessitates a forward-looking approach that leverages emerging technologies to modernize and optimize the grid infrastructure. The synergy between SCADA and Starlink holds the potential to revolutionize the way TNB manages its electrical grid, contributing significantly to achieving NETR’s goals and ensuring a greener and more sustainable energy ecosystem in Malaysia.
Bringing together TNB, Starlink, and SCADA in alignment with Malaysia’s National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) targets involves a strategic integration of these technologies and systems to support the country’s sustainable energy goals. Here’s how they can work together:
1. Enhanced Connectivity: Starlink’s satellite internet service can provide reliable high-speed internet connectivity to the SCADA system and other critical grid infrastructure. This connectivity ensures seamless data transmission and real-time monitoring capabilities.
2. Remote Monitoring and Control: SCADA, with the support of Starlink’s connectivity, enables TNB to remotely monitor and control its electrical grid. This includes real-time monitoring of substations, power flow, and equipment performance. This remote control capability is essential for efficient grid management in line with NETR goals.
3. Integration of Renewable Energy: TNB’s SCADA system, when connected via Starlink, can effectively integrate renewable energy sources into the grid. This integration is critical for NETR’s target of increasing renewable energy capacity. The system can monitor and manage solar and wind power generation and balance it with other energy sources.
4. Data-Driven Decision-Making: SCADA generates vast amounts of data related to the grid’s performance. By leveraging Starlink’s connectivity, TNB can collect, analyze, and utilize this data to make informed decisions about energy distribution and load management. Data-driven insights are crucial for optimizing energy efficiency and achieving NETR targets.
5. Grid Resilience and Reliability: The combination of SCADA and Starlink enhances grid resilience and reliability. It allows for remote restoration of supply in the event of outages and improves grid performance. This is aligned with NETR’s objective of ensuring a stable and reliable energy supply.
6. Energy Efficiency: TNB can utilize SCADA to monitor and control energy efficiency measures within the grid. This includes load balancing, reducing energy waste, and optimizing distribution. Achieving energy efficiency is a key focus of NETR.
7. Modernization and Expansion: TNB’s ongoing expansion of its SCADA system to cover more substations supports the growing demand for electricity in Malaysia. This expansion and modernization are crucial for accommodating the changing energy landscape as envisioned in NETR.
8. Compliance with Regulatory Requirements: As NETR introduces new regulatory changes and standards, SCADA, with reliable internet connectivity from Starlink, ensures that TNB complies with these requirements and reporting standards.
A sustainable future through innovation
Malaysia’s NETR goals include fostering innovation in clean energy solutions. Starlink not only facilitates the flow of information but also enables remote work and collaboration. This leads to greater innovation and technological advancements. Malaysians can harness the power of data, research, and international collaboration to develop cutting-edge solutions for clean energy and environmental sustainability. As Starlink continues to connect rural and urban areas alike, we can expect a surge in renewable energy innovation, research, and development.
Starlink’s impact on Malaysia’s NETR goals cannot be underestimated. By bridging the digital divide, enhancing education, and fostering innovation, it aligns perfectly with the core principles of NETR. As the NETR roadmap unfolds, Starlink’s contribution will be instrumental in accelerating Malaysia’s
transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future. It is the bridge that not only connects communities but also connects us to a greener, more prosperous tomorrow.
The author is an Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org