Why Plant Reliability and Regulatory Compliance is Vital

Why Plant Reliability and Regulatory Compliance is Vital

By Energy CIO Insights | Thursday, July 16, 2020

Utility plants, especially the electricity distributors need to rein in third-party consultants for maintaining the plant reliability and compliance as lagging in the area will be taxing for the company.

FREMONT, CA: The domino chain of blackouts in Florida offers a big takeaway; the corporation was confident in believing that the plant complied with the then updated reliability standards during the time of the blackout. Regardless of the reason for cause, the incident proved to the world that consequences could be significant and comes with a fine. 

By ensuring compliance with the changing regulations and briefly reporting the case, would have taken a considerable amount of time, focused attention, and in-depth knowledge. But, it would have saved the corporation from exorbitant reformation measures and the loss of control over processes. The evolving technology has made compliance issues much more complicated and taxing with regular updates. 

Reports from Deloitte mentions a hike in full-time employees (FTEs) is recognized in the energy companies that support North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) compliance. From a collective point of view, the cost of compliance is going up reporting a budget of over $10 million in more than 14 percent of the companies. 

Outsourcing Compliance and Reliability:

The on-site staff faces heightening reliability responsibilities as the resources decrease every year. With NERC compliance being only a trend visible on the outer shell of compliance, the inner circles of the sector include an entirely different story leading to a much deeper issue. Numerous facilities have shifted the attention in reliability to a protective devices program, which is connected to the maintenance program. Although staffs with defined operational scope exist, they lack the training, tools, and time to maintain the devices safely in the program. The devices now under maintenance aren’t covered directly by the NERC compliance activities making those machines a threat to compliance and reliability. Depending on the scale of the corporation, devices that exist cannot be tested until a scheduled outage, providing it to the on-site staff who lack the time for testing that many devices. 

The congregation of technologies and trends in utilities has resulted in a shortage of skilled workers who can fulfill the requirements presented by compliance and reliability. An intelligent solution discovered to cover up this deficit will be the most profitable solution to energy businesses. Outsourcing the works to third-party electrical testers and maintenance experts will bring back the focus on resources and equipment enhancing the efficiencies, mitigating the risks, and improves profitability. 

Bridging the Talent Gap:

The safety and reliability regulations grow and deplete in the landscape of power generation. With a sea of change occurring in the scenario, experienced technicians are retiring, and their replacement costs are expensive. This makes it a tough feat for the company to maintain a decent quality of compliance teams. On the other hand, supplementing these roles with third-party service providers can not only tackle the cost issues but also upkeep the crucial weaknesses that exist in institutions. Third-party reliability experts have experience with multiple systems and facilities and possess the ability to objectively compare and interpret compliance edict and safety protocols from experience. 

Inviting a team acquainted with auditors to ensure the reliability of the processes will cut down the pressure and cost instead of training an in-house team to amass new knowledge. The wealth of institutional knowledge put together with an experienced testing partner accelerates the company’s processes. 

Keeping Compliant Means Keeping the Records:

Auditors and regulators—as data runs the industry—prefer to crosscheck every detail of the device. Previously, auditors would conduct trip checks and critical circuit tests that would have been enough. Replacing the broader criteria with detailed data-oriented processes comprising of mounds of information recorded from the working times of the device. Data related to performance and procedure of the test, equipment utilized, measurements in detailed and the result review are given attention to the most. 

The creation of modeling data for dynamic ratings is carried out using specific software and equipment to monitor the data while the plant is functioning. With the evolution of the grid, the ecosystem in energy changes leading to newer rounds of testing while the old modeling data is replaced, creating a new set. 

For the creation of modeling data for dynamic ratings, the best equipment is required along with the knowledge that can be effectively put to use according to the operational capacity of the auditors. 

Requirements for an ever-growing depth in the data seem like an ever-expanding liability, but in reality, is an opportunity to mitigate risk. With more depth, the justification for the return on investment from the maintenance and testing is exasperatingly technical as it dives into the details. The reliability and risk mitigation are cases that become much clearer when reliance on due diligence is carried out and signed off by the accredited expert or any third party. The risk if taken is worth a million dollars per day per violation and is backed by federal authority. 

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