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Powering an ever-changing world

Gary Megarrell shares some reflections on the industry and explains how the industry will power through the year ahead

From powering our homes and hospitals to research facilities and more, the power generation industry did not stop for the pandemic. 

Instead, it was challenged, and it responded with change. Throughout 2021, we will see many new projects centred around electrification, digitisation and energy storage.

Renewable energy is one of the first trends that spring to mind. With the UK and Ireland both committing to net zero emissions by 2050, the power industry will play its part by decarbonising. 

Despite the supply chain challenges caused by Covid-19, renewable power generation grew by 5%, according to the International Energy Agency, reaching almost 30% of global energy supply. 

Quick expansion requires quick thinking — the industry will need new engineering and technical capabilities to manage the change. We also require adaptability, as new legislation such as Stage V Emissions Standards must be followed along with existing standards like the Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD). Many businesses will require support in these areas.

Large scale energy storage of renewable energy is one challenge that manufacturers are currently rising to. 

For example, Caterpillar is launching a new energy storage solution that will shake up the market later this year. As more products hit the market, more industry standards will need to be developed to support their application.

Gary Megarrell, Director of Energy & Transportation, Finning UK & Ireland

Efficiency and cost effectiveness

As businesses strive for higher efficiency, we have seen rising demand for combined heat and power (CHP) solutions. High energy users can achieve staggering cost savings by using natural gas to produce electricity while converting heat for industrial processes or heating schemes. We anticipate businesses will look to service life as a key deciding factor to get the best return on investment and a low total cost of ownership for these systems.

For those in remote areas or with poor grid connections, microgrids are helping to improve power resilience. Often, hybrid microgrids consist of gensets, batteries and renewable distributed energy sources like solar and wind, connecting and breaking away from the grid as necessary.

Combined with new and advanced energy storage technologies, they provide remote sites with continuous, reliable power. 

Hybrid technology hits the waters

The hybrid-style solutions we often associate with our cars are growing in popularity in the marine industry. During low or mid power cruising, energy stored within a battery bank can power the vessel; once depleted, diesel can take over, while the electric motor or generator recharges the battery. 

Shipbuilders will be looking for end-to-end solution providers of this technology, and of engines, batteries and motors. 

Marine has always demanded a high project delivery standard and engineering capability, but maintenance contracts, aftermarket support and even connectivity are becoming key decision-making factors. We expect similar across other markets, as well as a growing interest in rebuilt engines, to give existing technology a new lease of life.

Traditional power sources hold strong

A rise in renewables goes hand in hand with the trends we see in the oil and gas sector, where we are experiencing continued decommissioning as well as tier 2 companies purchasing assets from the major players. 

New operators will want to invest in extending the life of platforms and equipment. This will make the lifecycle of equipment and parts critical, as well as a relationship with a service provider.

Not all applications are ready for renewables. Mission critical standby power is one compelling example of where diesel remains the popular technology, because it can accept significant load steps very quickly after an outage. There has been a surge in domestic demand for large generators for critical projects, hospitals, research facilities, pharmaceutical and the medical device industry. 

In Ireland, the data centre market has grown significantly — around €6.7 billion will be invested between 2021 and 2025 according to Host in Ireland. These projects rely on specialised project delivery and strong aftermarket support, particularly for global brands.

Industry changes are apparent across all sectors, but the industry will rise to the challenges of powering an ever-changing world.

Gary Megarrell is Director of Energy & Transportation at Finning UK & Ireland.

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