As change comes to the power generation industry, an engineered approach to reliability is more important than ever

by ronfluegge 1. June 2010 15:08

When U.S. electric utilities began deregulating in the 1990s, they reduced their focus on internal RAM monitoring and analysis in an effort to cut costs that did not contribute directly to the bottom line. Today, a new set of changes, from the entry of renewable energy sources to the prospect of carbon trading, is on the verge of transforming the industry once again. This time, however, the changes promise to highlight – and heighten – the importance of an engineered approach to reliability and maintenance.

Based on abrupt changes in plant utilization observed in Europe after the introduction of carbon trading in 2005, we can anticipate similar upheaval at U.S. plants as renewables and potential cap-and-trade legislation transform the usage profile of generating units. To mitigate the impact of these changes, operators will have to reassess the best way to utilize and maintain their units for optimal performance. In this article, we take a look at some of the expected changes and how operators can prepare for them.

All data in the following analysis come from Solomon Associates’ proprietary database, utilized in our company’s worldwide benchmarking and consulting services. For this article, we studied data from participating power generation units from 2005-2008, concentrating on U.S., Canadian and European generation, further segregated into coal-fueled steam and gas-fired combined-cycle technologies. Cogeneration combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) units that exported more than 20 percent of their total energy in steam were excluded in favor of units whose production was primarily electricity for comparison.

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