Coal, Hydroelectric

The Hydropower Industry’s Pursuit of Excellence

Issue 3 and Volume 117.

Linda Church Ciocci   By Linda Church Ciocci, Executive Director, and David Zayas, Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Technical Services, National Hydropower Association

What if you could prevent an event or accident at your facility before it happened, and what is that worth? What if you had advance information that alerted you to a potential issue and were able to avoid an employee accident, lost time, a forced outage or a multi-million dollar equipment repair?

Although we cannot predict the future and events will happen, the National Hydropower Association’s Operational Excellence (OpEx) program is developing a forum that is intended to share critical information in order to reduce risk, assist with making informed prospective decisions, and help the industry achieve a high-level of operational excellence. It is not a novel idea, as examples exist in various forms in the nuclear industry and at the Federal Aviation Administration, to name a couple. Until recently, the hydropower industry lacked such a program.

Safety has always been a major focus for facility owners. However, the average age of a hydroelectric facility in North America is 54 years. Operational reliability is also an increasing concern for many owners and operators as equipment wears, maintenance schedules increase and components are replaced or refurbished. The sharing of safety, operations, maintenance and environmental events, and their solutions, lessons learned and best practices, is one way the hydropower industry can respond to these increasing concerns.

Operational Excellence

In 2012, NHA created the Operational Excellence Task Force (Task Force) composed of industry members and charged with identifying the resources needed to achieve a high level of operational excellence at hydropower facilities.

The Task Force researched within and outside the industry for examples on how NHA could most effectively assist the industry in achieving operational excellence. The research revealed that quality hydropower information exists, but this information is fragmented, difficult to navigate and not broadly communicated. We also learned that some industries have developed Event Reporting (ER) programs where critical information is shared through a central database.

The Task Force agreed that developing a hydropower ER program where the industry could voluntarily submit and receive OEI would be invaluable.

To guide this process, the Task Force developed a mission statement and set of goals.

Our mission is bold: instill a culture of operational excellence at existing and future hydropower facilities that encourages the aggressive critical self-review and analysis of safety, operations, maintenance and environmental events, and the sharing thereof.

Our goals are achievable:

  • Be the recognized industry leader in providing a systematic means and forum for sharing hydropower operating experiences, best practices and lessons learned in a timely manner.
  • Raise the hydropower industry’s standard of performance by learning from the operating experiences from others and provide training and educational opportunities thereof.
  • Prevent the occurrence and recurrence of similar events and avoid defining events.

OpEx Pilot Program

On October 1, 2012, we put our mission and goals to the test and launched the OpEx Pilot program. The Pilot group includes ten NHA member companies who are responsible for developing the manuals and templates required for the ER program. They are also the first participants to submit, share and learn from actual ERs.

To date, the Pilot group has shared and conducted analysis on a number of ERs. We are excited by the valuable lessons learned and best practices that have emerged in the areas of crane operations, fish ladder equipment and operations, gate operations, oil containment and forced outage prevention, to name a few.

The Task Force will be adding additional pilot participants this spring and expanding the OpEx program to our larger membership throughout the year.

Going Forward

As the U.S. experiences a renewed focus on growing the hydropower industry and new development, we must be prepared to operate with the highest standards possible.

The OpEx program is the first of its kind, and we seek to make the U.S. hydropower industry the best worldwide. By bringing together both the federal and non-federal owners and operators to share operational challenges, reduce risk and increase our safety record, we will be the envy of the world.

We invite the hydropower industry to join us.

For more information contact Dave Zayas, NHA’s Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Technical Services, at [email protected] or (202) 682-1700.

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