The future of power plant services lies in emerging economies

Paul Boughton

Power plant services represent a growing market that offers steady revenues and solid growth, in contrast with the much more cyclical market for new-build power stations.

In the developed regions of Europe and North America, the main drivers are ageing power capacities that need replacing and, linked to this, the growing adoption of gas-fired generation.

Key drivers in emerging markets are rapid electricity demand growth, and industry privatisation and liberalisation which, in turn, push outsourcing of services. In the developed world, meanwhile, utilities struggling with skills shortages are also increasingly relying on outsourced services.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, World Power Plant Services Markets, finds that the markets earned revenue of $27.40 billion in 2011 and estimates this to reach $35.41 billion in 2017.

“Global growth in electricity demand is a key driver behind the growth of the power plant services market,” notes Frost & Sullivan Industry Director Harald Thaler. “As electricity demand rises, new generating capacities are added to the system, which in turn, require servicing.”

The services market is, however, forecast to grow somewhat more rapidly than electricity demand. The global correlation, comparing forecast growth for both indicators, is 1.55.

Whilst the services market is forecast to grow by 4.2 per cent between 2010 and 2017, world electricity demand growth will be 2.7 per cent over that same period. Greater outsourcing and the increasing proliferation of gas-fired technology, where reliance on the equipment providers for servicing is high, are major contributory factors.

“Geographically, the balance of power in the power plant services market will gradually shift towards the emerging economies, as they progressively liberalise not only their power but also their gas markets,” remarks Thaler. “Such trends will allow for a much greater penetration of modern gas-fired plants which attract higher outsourced maintenance spend.”

The fastest-growing regions will be the emerging Asian giants of China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Their combined share will rise from 18.1 per cent in 2010 to 23.4 per cent in 2017.

Gas turbines account for the largest share of the services market, globally. Their share will expand, albeit slowly, as ongoing coal-fired investments based on increasingly sophisticated supercritical technology fuel growth in emerging economies. This will partly offset the strong growth in gas-fired generation in some other parts of the world.

“Unlike in the market for new-build power plants, where China has been the leading world market for some time, the country’s position in the power plant services market is much more modest,” concludes Thaler. “Frost & Sullivan forecasts that in the lucrative services market, China will not overtake the USA before 2025.”

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