Optimising Performance: By David Thomason, Industry Principal, Power Generation, AVEVA

By David Thomason, Industry Principal, Power Generation, AVEVA

Power generation companies are facing a growing number of chall­en­ges, from increased market co­m­plexity and demand, to regulatory co­m­pliance, sustainability objectives and uncertainty spurred by Covid-19. The pandemic forced the industry to switch to remote working, and deal with ma­intenance gaps created by supply ch­ain disruptions. It highlighted the need for operational resiliency and agility in or­der to ensure the delivery of pow­er. Ga­rt­­ner has reported that resilient delivery is one of 2021’s top utility trends gi­ven the industry’s underlying belief that volatility will continue.

Power plants are becoming ever more digital with the combination of assets wi­th connected devices. Most importa­ntly, the data captured from these assets supports the sector’s growing focus on resilience, agility and reliability. Accor­d­ing to Gartner, 50 per cent of the utilities will have advanced their use of internet of things (IoT) technology to bu­ild dyna­mic capabilities, optimise processes and improve decision-making by 2024. In addition, 40 per cent of new monitoring and control systems in this sector will be using IoT to enable intelligent operations by 2025.

Benefits of digital transformation

The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning enables organisations to have full visibility of operati­ons. It also provides insights that can help overcome some of the sector’s most disruptive challenges. The amount of big data produced by power generation companies means that forward-thinking businesses are investing in monitoring and predictive analytics tools that help leverage this data to its full capacity. Navigant Resear­ch, for example, estimated that almost $50 billion will be spent on asset management and grid monitoring technologies by 2023. By supporting agility, orga­nisations can respond to change more quickly. Predi­ctive maintenance allows the power industry to identify malfunctions before they happen, ensuring the reliability of their operations. This better positions them for growth in uncertain times ahead.

What does predictive analytics offer?

Predictive analytics enables operations and maintenance personnel to be more proactive. In addition, the reliability and performance of assets are improv­ed through early warning notifications and diagnosis of equipment problems da­ys, weeks or months before failure. It can help forecast the remaining useful life of assets to provide deep insights into operations and maintenance risks. Th­rou­gh predictive analytics, companies are able to implement asset strategies designed to avoid unplanned downtime for their most critical assets, while also deciding which preventive or corrective asset strategy is the best option for less vital equipment. The benefits of predictive analytics go far beyond optimising maintenance schedules to ensuring reliability of operations. As risk assessment beco­mes more exact, prioritisation of capital and operational ex­penditure can be optimised. Co­mpa­ni­es can also realise financial savings by avoiding costs related to loss of power and/or productivity, repla­ce­ment equipment and additional man hours-accrued during a fault.

Tangible business benefits

A great example of the benefits of predictive analytics in the power sector is Tata Power. Tata Power turned to predictive an­alytics as a means of avoiding asset fa­il­ures and reducing downtime by monitoring the health and performance of eq­uipment fleet-wide and in real time. By moving from reactive to proactive maintenance, the company was able to receive ea­rly warnings of potential faults – on one occasion saving an estimated $27,000. It also im­prov­ed equipment reliab­ility and perfo­rmance, and helped capture knowledge of equipment failure modes.

Knowledge capture and transfer

Knowledge capture and transfer is another key benefit of predictive analytics, an area of huge importance to a sector that is seeing many of its experienced staff reaching retirement age. The accumulated knowledge stays available to new staff as they join the business, ensuring that best practices, operating proced­ures and maintenance processes are pa­ssed on to the next generation, thus re­ducing risks and improving reliability.

Staying competitive in today’s changeable times

The power generation and utility sector is grappling with a world that is more vo­latile and complex, but demands gr­e­a­ter speed, agility and resilience. In res­po­nse, it is undergoing a digital transformation that enhances the way power is produced and delivered. Predictive analytics has a key role in this transformation as it en­ab­les organisations to beco­me more resi­li­ent, reliable and efficient by moving from a reactive to a proactive way of working. As more power generation companies embrace this technology, we will see re­duced risks, speedy crisis response and improved resiliency, which will help or­ga­ni­sations remain competitive and profit­able in a more uncertain “new normal”.

By David Thomason, Industry Principal, Power Generation, AVEVA