In our newest segment for In-Power Women, we were pleased to recruit Syakirah Wan Abdullah, the Head of Business Development of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). Ms. Abdullah has had a long and impressive tenure at TNB and through the lens of her experience, we spoke about TNB’s past, present, and future. Our interview consisted of five questions that highlighted how much TNB has grown its sustainability roadmap and also Ms. Abdullah’s unique perspective into her time with the Malaysian national power utility
In your opinion, what part of TNB’s strategy has changed over your time (19 years) with TNB with regards to sustainability and RE?
In 2002, renewable energy was something very alien at that point in time. The market has been evolving since then. We’re traditionally producing power using conventional generators, using fuel from coal and gas. We still have this kind of power plant currently but we are moving towards more reliable and more green a solution such as solar, mini-hydro, and also not to forget other emerging technologies such as energy storage, those are the kind of new technologies that we are exploring now. In terms of the strategy, I’m glad to say that TNB currently is aggressive, and very focused on growing the renewable energy segment. It is also in line with what the government wants for the nation, as the current target that the government has announced is to achieve 31% of renewable energy in the mix by 2025.
As you mentioned TNB’s current sustainability strategy has changed significantly, but how has it adjusted and what are some of the biggest opportunities you’ve uncovered?
For the last 20 years, we have been moving from conventional generators to more sustainable ones and also recently TNB has pledged not to invest in any new generation with regards to coal, and no more newly constructed plants [will be built] in our plans. Also, TNB has increased the footprint, for example, in large-scale solar in Malaysia where we have already had three plants of solar plants under the Large Scale Solar (LSS) program, 50 Megawatts (MW) in Sepang. Also, there is another additional about 80 MW in the North of Malaysia. We also would like to grow in Southeast Asia where we have had a collaboration with partners to enter Vietnam and also Singapore, on top of other markets because we see that in order to achieve our ambition we need not only to grow within the country, but we also had to grow internationally. Currently, the focus area includes South East Asia and the European region.
While innovation can drive adoption of newer fuels such as waste-to-energy and mini-hydro, what are some of the opportunities and challenges you see with adding these types of fuels?
When talking about new types of technologies, I would love to touch a bit on waste-to-energy. Those areas that we are currently pursuing because we believe that the waste-to-energy segment is an untapped market in Malaysia. There’s a lot of potential that we think we can grow in this area. On that matter, we also see a few challenges in this area, we can see that our neighbors as quite advanced, for example, Singapore, China, Thailand, for instance. In Malaysia, I can say that there’s none yet successful waste-to-energy plants but I believe the government is planning something because there’s a few tenders already this year to focus on and to develop a few ways to energy plants. I believe that the government is looking at one plant per state so meaning that there’s a lot of potential that that can be tapped from this area. There are also other types of technologies, for example, mini-hydro, or energy storage, which we think that this is an area we also need to expand upon, especially on energy storage. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done because from an economic sense, we are still not yet at a level where we can deploy this technology on a very big scale. But those are the few technologies that we’re aiming to grow.
Switching gears to the In-Power Women portion of the interview and with regards to the knowledge you have now, what would you tell yourself years ago when you just started in the power sector?
When I just came into the company, basically like freshly baked bread, right? (laughter) There’s not much idea of what to expect when I started work, but just doing my normal routine, everyday work but when every day I worked, day by day, years by year, I find the work is very interesting. Also because of that I decided to further my studies and went for my Masters’s in engineering. Currently, I’m also pursuing my Ph.D. When I first started my job, I didn’t expect I would love this job so much. Along the way, when you enjoy it, it becomes a passion and so because of that, I have grown myself and equipped myself in terms of knowledge. I pursue knowledge to better equip myself to be able to deliver better in terms of my work and deliverables for the company and for the country.
Lastly, can you describe the differences, if there are any, in working in the power sector as a woman compared to other industries?
Generally, maybe the engineering field is not a normal field that a woman would like to venture into [because] this kind of environment is mostly it is male-dominated. I don’t find it very challenging but personally, I love to work with all of my colleagues, and whether it’s male colleagues or female colleagues. I don’t think that gender bias exists very much in this field but of course, you have to deliver and achieve what your counterpart can deliver. That’s why knowledge is important and also your hard work is also important to justify that you also can do the same as the other parties can do.
We hope you enjoyed this segment for In-Power Women. Be sure to check out our future content for more unique perspectives of the power sector and drop us a line if you would like to get involved with In-Power Women. Accepting nominations for future allies now! To nominate an ally or to learn more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org today.