In 2013, coal was the fuel used to generate about one third of the United States’ electricity demand. This value has gradually declined over the past decade, with a corresponding increase in the shares of other energy sources, mainly natural gas and renewable resources. This trend is driven by increasingly stringent Environment Protection Agency (EPA) standards on acceptable limits of pollutants, as well as recent discoveries of economically viable natural gas resources. Coal-fired power plants are left with the option of either investing in pollution control technologies- scrubbers, SCR’s, etc.- which required hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, or face the inevitable fate of retirement. Efficient operation of a power plant is the determining factor of whether of not the plant can survive under such circumstances: the ability to maximize use of energy sources while limiting costs to the minimum without affecting growth and sustainability opportunities in the future.

Several techniques are applicable to achieve this:

  • Establishing a cost savings initiative that focuses on identifying and eliminating waste in plant processes, and quantifies the associated sustainable and one-time savings and their impact on the plant’s O&M and capital budgets.

  • Application of a continuous improvement (CI) maturity assessment model to identify and track the level of adoption of (CI) within the organization.

  • Implementation of lean methods such as Kaizens, 5S, process mapping, and value stream mapping (VSM). An example of utilizing value stream mapping: using Current-State Value Stream Maps (CSM) for SO3 mitigation, waste water treatment, and clearance processes; using Future State Value Stream Mapping (FSM) for outage management and communications processes.