The need for the latest asset management and maintenance strategies has never been greater as PR24 looms. Water companies have submitted business plans for 2025 and 2030 worth a combined £96 billion – almost twice the spend of the current period. Maintaining and improving ageing infrastructure is the number one priority.
Similarly, the power sector must decarbonise while also reinforcing network infrastructure to meet demand and connect low carbon generation. Here too, investment levels are gargantuan, with Ofgem approving more than £22 billion of investment by electricity distribution networks over RIIO ED2.
A recent report from RS Group and the IMechE found it was ageing assets and mechanical failures that were the biggest drivers of unscheduled downtime for water and power networks. In fact, nearly 20 hours are spent each week on unscheduled maintenance by engineers at utilities, compared to less than 17 hours spent each week on scheduled maintenance – and at an average hourly cost of almost £7,000.
To address this, it’s clear strategies other than fixing on failure will be needed in the next few years, and that’s where condition monitoring and predictive maintenance come in.
Utility Week brought together experts from SSEN Transmission and Northumbrian Water at a recent webinar, along with engineers from RS, to learn how utilities are taking up the predictive maintenance challenge, and why asset programme management in water should take a holistic approach.
Here are three key takeaways from our speakers:
1. Fix on fail is an option of last resort.
Brian Addison, head of asset management at SSEN Transmission, has a zero-tolerance approach to fix on fail. “I can categorically state fix on fail represents the last resort for my business,” he says, “because of the negative impact transmission failures have for consumers.
“You only have to look have to look at what happened in 2019 when one transmission line failed and one million customers lost power to see the potential impact.”
2. Focus on society and environment as well as service delivery.
“We […] realised we needed to make a step change in how we optimised our assets across the business,” explains Carol Cairns, head of the programme management office at Northumbrian Water. “Not just looking at the short-term but also the medium and the long term […] delivering that unrivalled service we aspire to, but also delivering on environmental and social value.”
That means focusing on water quality but also wider metrics such as reducing flooding, community benefits, biodiversity gains, and carbon reduction.
3. Engineers should aim to predict the future.
Addison adds that he aspires to a maintenance regime where he makes “the right intervention at the right time, every time”. SSEN Transmission is working on deploying networks of sensors that relay data on asset condition and performance to do this.
“Our vision is in the not-too-distant future sensors will detect the earliest stages of an FS6 gas leak within our switchgear. This data will be analysed by our analytics platform and a failure date will be predicted.”
Addison calls this approach “world-class asset management”. RS is already helping make that vision a reality by providing conditioning monitoring technologies to utilities, including wind turbine operators and a CHP power station in the south of England, where it is saving the operator almost £70,000 a year thanks to its oil analysis expertise.
If you’d like to learn more, sign up now to watch the webinar on demand.