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Power Plant Benchmarking –
A Valuable Tool For Performance Improvement
By Elena Virkkala Nekhaev
I
n 1974, the World Energy Council (WEC) established a impact and the CO
2
capture rate. Measured at plant level,
Committee on the Performance of Generating Plant (PGP). modern technologies represent a big opportunity, but on a
One of the committee’s objectives was collecting power national level, the impact will be much smaller due to the
plantperformanceindicatorsandstatisticsusingWEC’sglobal relatively modest share of new modern plants in the overall
membershipnetwork.Theultimategoalofdatacollectionwas generation mix. On the other hand, CO
2
emissions mitigation
to establish benchmarks for power plant performance and benefits from existing power plants achieved either through
develop tools for evaluating performance and identifying performanceimprovementsorbytheadditionofCO
2
capture,
performance enhancing opportunities. A set of performance although modest at plant level will produce spectacular
indicators was developed for assessing and interpreting plant benefits on a national level due to the large number of
reliabilityandavailabilitystatistics/unavailabilityfactors.The generating plants in operation.
main indicators were associated with major technological “Performance improvement of existing power plants is the
features, including plant technology, main fuel, age, output most cost effective way to increase the energy producing
capacity and others. All units had to be base-loaded, i.e. capabilitiesofautility,improvetheoverallenergyefficiencyof
operating for more than 40% of time. the industry and produce substantial environmental benefits,”
Thirty five years on, the PGP committee is still in business said Dr. Karl Theis, Managing Director of VGB PowerTech e.V.,
and busier than ever. The operating environment and (Germany) and Chair of the WEC PGP committee.
technologies used for power generation “Availability is a critical indicator for
have changed significantly during this
Performance benchmarking ...
assessing the overall performance of
time but the need for data to be able to
compare plant performances has not
has become fundamentally
the power plant in both technical and
commercial terms. Moreover, it is a
disappeared. If anything it has become
important
public demonstration of the service the
even more important, not least because plant provides to its customers. The
of new challenges facing the industry today: Competitive importance of reliable service should not be underestimated,
pressures, concerns about supply security and the need to especiallyintheincreasinglycompetitivemarketenvironment
reduce greenhouse gas emissions. inwhichmanyutilitiesaroundtheworldareoperatingtoday.”
Atthemoment,thereisalot ofattentiononrenewables,not
to mention high expectations. However, one should not forget Evolving Data Needs
that while renewables share of the global electricity supply is Data needs are evolving along with the industry. During the
significant – with large hydro contributing about 16% and 1970s and ‘80s, data was primarily used for evaluation of
otherrenewablessuchaswind,biomass,solar,geothermaletc. industry trends and assessment of their impact on overall
about 5% – the world still relies heavily on fossil fuels, with power supply reliability. For example, the WEC studied
coal accounting for 40% of global electricity production and reliability impacts on industry due to changes in technology
naturalgasforabout17%.Moreover,powerplantsareamong suchastheadditionoffluegasdesulphurisation(FGD)systems
the largest infrastructure investments with a long lifetime. tocoal-firedplants.Atthattime,aggregatedatathathadbeen
Therefore, it is particularly important to realise the potential collected and disseminated was sufficient to meet industry
held by existing power generation facilities in terms of needs and expectations. However, beginning in the 1990s,
additional supplies and GHG emissions reduction emerging competition and deregulation of the electricity
opportunities. industry began to have a significant impact on the industry,
changing both its structure and the way it operated. This also
New Technologies or Improved Operation? had implications for plant management and associated data
Itisobviousthatnewtechnologies,almostbydefault,reduce needs, whilst the value of historical data had changed too.
incremental CO
2
emissions per MW of new capacity. It’s also Collectingindividualunitperformancedatahadbecomevital.
obviousthatimprovingoperatingefficiencyandreducingCO
2
So too had the analysis of this data to improve individual unit
emissions from existing power generation facilities can bring performance. Performance benchmarking and other similar
enormous benefits, although this is not always well- techniques that focus on the comparison of a unit’s
understood. CO
2
reduction benefits achieved by new, modern performance against that of its peers is now fundamentally
generation can be calculated by combining value of heat rate important.
124 worldPower2009
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