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Maintenance plays a crucial role – together towards a climate-neutral energy future

Kunnossapito paljon vartijana – yhdessä kohti ilmastoneutraalia energiatulevaisuuttaIn fall 2023, we studied the state of maintenance in the Finnish energy industry. The study was conducted as an in-depth interview with 23 maintenance professionals in the energy industry. The vast majority of respondents held expert or managerial positions in maintenance, responsible for both the daily success of maintenance and long-term planning.

→ Download the research report and explore the responses of maintenance professionals in the energy industry more closely

A major energy transition brings challenges for maintenance, but also new opportunities

Nordic countries have high energy needs due to cold climates, long distances, and energy-intensive industries. The main task of energy companies is to ensure the security of the energy supply, and maintenance plays an essential role in achieving this. The importance of this work is reflected in the fact that energy production plants, and electricity and district heating networks are constantly being renovated and upgraded. As a result, there are relatively few outages and disruptions.

In the study, we asked respondents to describe, based on their own experience, the biggest challenges they face in maintaining the energy industry today. Based on the discussions, we divided responses into four categories.

1. Challenges by the green transition

Tighter environmental standards put pressure on power plants to adapt to emission restrictions at a rapid pace. The change brings challenges for maintenance. New or changing fuels put a strain on equipment that was not originally designed to use them. In addition, environmental considerations play an increasingly central role in daily maintenance activities. On the other hand, modern maintenance can also contribute to ecological performance.

Read more: The RED III Directive defines sustainability reporting in the energy sector – automatic reporting makes it easier

The transition from incineration to a completely new technology also brings challenges. For example, simple solutions for electric boilers and heat storage systems often involve technologies that are not yet well understood. This complicates maintenance planning.

2. Increased cyclicality

Energy utilities are required to maintain a high level of reliability by keeping their plants as reliable as possible, and responding quickly to failures. In the past, when electricity prices were relatively stable, the cyclical nature of plant operation was mainly based on the variation between the heating season and the summer season. In the current situation, the increase in weather-dependent electricity generation is causing large fluctuations in electricity prices, and the cyclical nature of plant operation has increased. The fluctuation between peak and minimum power has also become more frequent. This puts an unplanned load on the equipment.

3. Shortage of professionals hits hard

Skills shortages are affecting maintenance, including in the energy sector. Skills needs are changing rapidly with technological developments, and there is a growing need for skills in areas such as electrical and automation engineering. In addition, the emergence of new production methods is so rapid that it is a challenge to identify the skills that are needed in the future. 

On the other hand, old, incineration plants are also needed in the transition phase. Some of the plants are already old, and support from equipment suppliers is not always available. This places a different amount of demand on the organization to maintain its competences than in the past. 

While digitalization and smart grids bring new opportunities, they also place demands on skills. In the field of maintenance, particular emphasis is placed on the use and analysis of data.

4. The importance of planning is highlighted

The reliability requirements of large installations call for planned and systematic maintenance. Shortcomings in documentation, for example, make it difficult to analyze and improve activities. The fragmentation of information, combined with the increase in cyclical use, makes it difficult to prioritize and target maintenance activities. 

The importance of planning in the current situation is also underlined by the challenges of availability of spare parts. Due to long delivery times, it is necessary to be able to anticipate the consumption of spare parts even years in advance. Here, the consumption history data from the maintenance system and carefully executed inspection plans play an important role.

Download the entire research report

Through the study, we aimed to identify the characteristic features present in maintenance within the energy industry. Additionally, we sought to understand the challenges and requirements currently being faced within the sector. Download the research report and delve deeper into the responses of maintenance professionals in the energy industry.

A review of the state of maintenance in the Finnish energy industry

Read more: 

Blog: How is maintenance data refined into additional value for business operations and decision-making?
Blog: From an expense to a productivity driver – how to ensure the future success of maintenance?
Novi by Pinja - maintenance system

Juha Nyholm

Juha Nyholm

I work as a Sales Manager at Pinja, working on maintenance solutions. I have a long history of working with industry. I spend my free time in my own and my children’s sports activities, including basketball.

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