research officer, Multimedia University

Several parts of Malaysia including Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Johor were hit by a power blackout at about 12.30 p.m. local time on Thursday Jan. 13.

A report from Malaysia’s The Star Online said that Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has identified the cause of the problem at the Kapar switchyard at the Port Klang Power Station, which caused it to trip at 12.16 pm, resulting in the National Grid losing 1,700 megawatts. TNB said that it is restoring power in stages and that this process should be completed by 6.30 pm on Thursday.

The Cyberjaya City Command Centre (CCC), which services the Cyberjaya community that comprises mainly local and foreign IT companies, sent out an e-mail to update the residents on the situation not long after the power outage occurred. Only the essential and mission critical departments like the university’s administration office and server rooms were kept online. Other noncritical departments had to wait for about two and a half hours before power was restored.Hiew Chee Choong>Text

Zulkifly Hj. Yusof, head of operations at CCC, said in the e-mail that the power outage was anticipated to last for hours before it would be restored. Hence, the advice from CCC to Cyberjaya residents was to take precautionary measures such as to ensure enough fuel supply for the backup generator and the premises’ security.

“Although the blackout did affect the whole of Cyberjaya, most companies, especially the (multinationals), had their own backup power supply or UPS (uninterruptible power supply). The only ones really affected by the blackout were the handful of smaller companies that did not have such facilities,” said Zulkifly in a phone interview.

CCC has a hotline number that companies can call for assistance in such situations, and the command centre only received calls from about 10 companies out of the hundreds that are based in Cyberjaya, he said. Internet access within Cyberjaya was not affected since the two major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that provide Internet broadband services for the area had their own backup power supplies. This was also the case for telecommunications services, said Zulkifly.

Maxis Communications had generator sets for its telecommunications equipment that provide coverage for the Cyberjaya community, but the generator sets are only capable of providing backup power for between three to four hours.

When contacted for comments, a Maxis spokesperson said that the backup power for its equipment in Cyberjaya was sufficient in this instance. “That is the window we have to work on the problem. And, if required, we will bring in additional backup power in any form should the power failure last longer,” she said.

Maxis added that the blackout has had no major effect on its subscribers at the moment. However, should this power failure continue, Maxis subscribers in the central and southern region of West Malaysia may face difficulty in accessing Maxis telecommunications services, the company said in a statement via e-mail. Several IT vendors based in Cyberjaya said that they were not affected by the blackout because they had backup power generator sets in place.

“The blackout happened around 12.30 pm but our generator set kicked in almost immediately, providing backup power to our data centre and that saves our business of issuing digital certificates for a good number of hours,” said Yvonne Oung, marketing manager at MSC

“At the workstations, there was a slight loss of productivity. Since most of the staff use notebook computers, productivity is as good as the duration the notebook’s battery power can last,” she added. Syamaizar Indah, business development executive at Pharmaniaga Solutions, said that the company’s generator set restored power within five minutes of the blackout. “Although that power tripped a few times for a few seconds, it was work as usual at the office,” she added.

Several other organizations based in Cyberjaya, however, were affected. Hiew Chee Choong, a research officer at Multimedia University (MMU), said that MMU has backup generator sets but these did not provide power to the entire campus.

“Only the essential and mission critical departments like the university’s administration office and server rooms were kept online. Other noncritical departments had to wait for about two and a half hours before power was restored,” he said.

Microsoft Corp.’s .NET Technopreneur Development Centre (NTDC), which is located at the MSC Central Incubator within the MMU campus, did not have any generator set installed and was therefore affected by the power outage. The development centre is a joint initiative between the Multimedia Development Corporation, Microsoft Malaysia, MMU and Hewlett-Packard Co.

“Everyone at the centre waited for the power to be restored, which took about two and a half hours. It’s not much of an issue since the NTDC is a lab, thus work done is not time-sensitive nor mission critical,” said Nur Eliza, an employee at NTDC.