In most of the world today, power producers are operating in uncertain times. As traditional operating models are upended by new sources of energy, particularly wind and solar, steam power plant operators find themselves running plant and equipment in ways never intended by their designers. This stresses not only the equipment but also budgets and resources. The uncertainty produced by today’s markets also leads to shifting priorities from management and a lack of operational predictability. The result is an increasingly complex operating environment and fragmented marketplace driven by inconsistent and fluctuating demand.
Operators face new challenges every quarter. Deregulation, power trading, decentralized power markets, competition from renewables, price volatility, fast-ramping, a retiring workforce, the loss of institutional knowledge, and the constant threat of cyberattack are among the most critical of these challenges. This is especially true in mature markets where many steam power plants operate as back-ups to a power grid increasingly supplied by renewables. This leads to inefficient operation where plants must frequently ramp up and shut down as load demand fluctuates. In these markets, the days of plants operating continuously at base load are coming to an end.