Helping Utilities Lead

The Energy Revolution

Leading equipment providers are helping power producers and utilities survive and thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.


An Energy Revolution Is Upon Us, One That Is Transforming the Electric Power Industry.

For power producers and utilities, the challenges posed by fluctuations in demand for energy, as well as increased pressure to produce cleaner and more reliable energy, are myriad and complex. Companies that respond effectively to these challenges and meet the ultimate goal of keeping customers happy while preparing for the future of electric power will see the benefits in their image and their bottom line.

As industry leaders adopt new energy generation sources and new technologies to transmit and distribute that energy, they struggle to increase operational efficiencies, decrease outages and improve Customer Average Interruption Duration Index (CAIDI), System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) and System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) scores, all while maintaining safety and reducing their Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR). Plant operators struggle to maximize megawatt output and minimize heat rate.

The Changing Power Landscape

With coal and fuel oil plants retiring nationwide, renewable energy on the rise and one of the largest overhauls of the transmission and delivery (T&D) system of the last 100 years underway, the power industry is shape-shifting faster than customers can ask their smart speaker to turn on the coffee maker.

More power will come from natural gas and renewables, putting increased pressure on smaller plants once considered auxiliary resources and driving some plants to run for longer intervals.

16 gigawatts of U.S. coal-fired power plants retired in 2018 alone
U.S. coal power capacity has fallen by one third since 2010
Half the operable capacity of nuclear plants risks closure over the next 20 years.

Capacity and reliability become significant issues as natural gas and renewable plants take on more of the generation demand. While a coal plant may produce enough power to serve 50,000 customers, a utility-grade wind or other renewable energy plant may produce enough for only 5,000 customers.

Evolving Energy Generation Mix

The decades-old grid is increasingly vulnerable to outages related to maintenance and capacity overloads. The shift to renewables adds intermittency and unpredictability. More-frequent severe storms add additional stress.

Planned and unplanned outages are commonplace across North America, costing utilities millions of dollars per year. In 2017 the U.S. experienced 3,526 utility power outages affecting more than 36 million people.

Planned and unplanned outages cost utilities millions of dollars per year.


In 2017 the U.S. Experienced 3,526 utility power outages affecting more than 36 million people.

The Cost
Of Outages

Typical costs of unplanned outages per day:

Coal: $333,335 to $1,351,800
Natural gas: $289,940 to $952,650
Nuclear: $1,388, 396 to $2,165,188

Typical cost of scheduled maintenance overhauls:
Coal: $1M to $15M
Natural gas: $10M to $45M
Nuclear: $28M

Energy companies will invest tens of billions of dollars to update the grid over the next 10 years to increase reliability and allow for technology such as smart metering and a more flexible distribution of electricity. Major investments in software and equipment are also required to answer growing customer calls for energy on demand.

Planned Investments in The Grid

Duke Energy: $25 billion over 10 years
AEP: $33 billion over 5 years
DTE and Consumers: $7.2 billion over 5 years
Exelon: $25 billion over 5 years

Keeping the power on for customers while making these improvements comes at a price. A leading utility in the West spent more than $20 million in 2018 alone on temporary power generation during outages and another $10 million in service work related to outages.


Helping Utilities Lead the Energy Revolution

Leading equipment providers are partnering with power generation and utility companies to meet the changing demands of the industry and solve issues that threaten profitable performance. Through their fleets of critical air, power and HVAC equipment and in-house engineers with expertise in power generation and T&D systems, they are helping these companies:

In addition, equipment providers, as well as companies that offer equipment safety training, are facilitating:

Read more about how equipment providers help power generators respond to industry challenges below. Or skip to insights on transmission and distribution.

Compliance: Stringent and evolving environmental regulations are universal pain points, and reducing the cost of compliance is never far from mind. Renting state-of-the-art, Tier-4-compliant equipment for temporary needs helps energy companies reach their emissions targets for nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants. Equipment with load-limiting capabilities greatly reduces fuel consumption, burn rate and NOx and PM output. Adding spill-proof containment under rented equipment helps ensure zero spill.

Increased safety: Energy companies strive to achieve a world-class safety culture and reduce their TRIR, but that’s increasingly challenging. Training on equipment and safety procedures is essential to working safer. United Rentals’ online training portal, United Academy, allows companies to train their employees on how to safely use or interface with any piece of rented equipment.

Cost control: Rising pressure to reduce costs makes optimizing rental equipment utilization essential. Companies may need a piece of equipment for just an hour or two during a two-week outage, but if that equipment sits onsite for the duration, the costs add up. A web-based equipment management platform such as United Rentals’ Total Control® provides immediate transparency into owned and rented assets and lets customers order or offload any piece of rented equipment at any time. Total Control® activity reports help managers decrease rental time and boost utilization. In one ethylene plant development project, Total Control® led to an increase in equipment utilization of 37 percent, for a cost reduction of 28 percent.

Power Generation Challenges

Power generation is transforming almost as rapidly as turbine blades spin. As it evolves, so do production and maintenance problems.

Plant engineers are increasingly challenged to find creative ways to operate plants more efficiently, as every percentage point counts. For load-following plants, the repeated starts and stops of turbines contribute to maintenance issues. Managing planned outages, which often come with impossible timelines and economic constraints, begins to resemble a sprint with an obstacle course thrown in — and every extra minute costs money.

By partnering with a equipment provider that understands the nature of outages and the obstacles that go with them, plant operators, maintenance managers and planners can maximize efficiencies for work done during these events and get to the finish line on time and on budget.

Men in hard hats

Challenges related to power generation come in every shape and size. Companies such as United Rentals are helping power partners address unusual problems through innovative engineering designs that fit different regulatory environments, timelines and budgets. In addition, customized process solutions are solving heat issues during seasonal bottlenecks and increase production.

The Case of
the Wet Windings

Leading equipment providers are partnering with power generation and utility companies to meet the changing demands of the industry and solve issues that threaten profitable performance. Through their fleets of critical air, power and HVAC equipment and in-house engineers with expertise in power generation and T&D systems, they are helping these companies:

Customers Ask How Can I…

Improve My Heat Rate?

Supplemental power and HVAC equipment facilitates the maintenance of condensers, heaters, pumps, piping and cooling towers — critical to lowering heat rate — and makes important change-outs such as turbine blade upgrades faster and easier. In addition, temporary HVAC solutions help operators of older plants alleviate pain points related to heat production from boiler systems, turbines and generators to lower overall ambient temperatures and thereby improve heat rate.

Increase capacity?

Supplemental cooling solutions, from inlet/discharge water cooling for combustion turbines to reactor and containment cooling, help optimize megawatt output during peak season. Rental equipment for change-outs and integrated leak rate testing (ILRT) at nuclear plants facilitates maintenance, which is key to maximizing productivity.

Keep outages on time and on budget?

Rental equipment for temporary power, dehumidification, supplemental process cooling and comfort cooling in confined spaces streamlines change-outs and maintenance tasks. In addition, Total Control® from United Rentals allows plants to manage the lifecycle of rented equipment and reduce their spend. Training in advance on boom lifts and other key rental equipment makes every minute during an outage count and minimizes downtime.

Eliminate seasonal bottlenecks?

Sooner or later, plants running at peak performance will see bottlenecks due to heat. Supplemental cooling equipment combined with innovative engineering solutions lowers overall process temperatures. Consider a fouled heat exchanger. A equipment provider can not only provide a supplemental heat exchanger but reroute the oil through a different stream so the plant doesn’t need to shut down while the owned exchanger is cleaned or replaced.

Solving T&D Challenges

America’s decades-old transmission and distribution grid is no match for the four Ds: decarbonization, decentralization, dissemination of renewable energy and digitalization. Imagine trying to surf the web on a flip phone. Today’s grid is that flip phone.

Utilities are investing billions to update it. The goal: Improve reliability and system flexibility for customers — to get them power when they want it, where they want it and how they want it — while preparing for the demands of electric vehicles, distributed generation, the advent of blockchain technology and more.


As these companies build the energy infrastructure of the future, with multiple potential points for electricity generation, demand response and energy storage, shortening or eliminating planned and unplanned outages becomes ever more critical. Operators also need to increase their reserve power to handle the sudden shortfalls generated by renewables.

To keep power flowing during maintenance and upgrade projects as well as curb peak costs and solve intermittent power issues, companies are turning to temporary power generation from leading equipment providers. The temporary power generation market is expected to reach $20 billion by 2020, from $13 billion today, fueled largely by the utility segment.

Customers Ask How Can I…

Improve My CAIDI, SAIDI and SAIFI Scores?

Temporary secondary or primary voltage power generation equipment can shorten the duration of an outage, resulting in lower CAIDI and SAIDI scores. Temporary power solutions can in some instances eliminate the outage for planned work, resulting in lower SAIFI scores.

Mobile power solutions provide contingency power in the event of major or catastrophic weather events to boost reliability. And tools solutions, up to and including custom-stocked tool trailers, ensure that the right tools are on hand to get repair work done quickly.

Equipment providers also provide controllable loads for testing infrastructure to specifications to avoid using customer loads and creating an outage risk.

Avoid system overload during peak season?

Customized transformer cooling solutions can prevent overheating due to grid congestion. Temporary primary generation supports trouble spots, and contingency generation supports high-risk areas prone to failure.

Keeping power flowing during upgrades and outages?

Rented mobile power solutions can eliminate an outage and allow maintenance work to be done de-energized. Equipment such as grounded and deenergized lifts lets work continue safely without shutting down the transformer.

Keep my workers safer?

Utility work is dangerous work. A service-focused equipment provider can offer equipment solutions that mitigate certain risks to workers. For example, adding a chassis grounding lug to an aerial lift and a bonding lug to the basket allows the worker to create an equipotential zone to reduce the possibility of electrocution.

The Winds of Positive Change Are Blowing Strong.

It’s a promising albeit turbulent time for the electric power industry. As generators and utilities chart the future of lower-carbon electric power and build a T&D system befitting modern realities, strategic partners including temporary equipment providers are right beside them.

North America’s Largest Provider

United Rentals, North America’s largest provider of commercial and industrial rental equipment, is uniquely positioned to add value. With a $14 Billion and 600,000-piece fleet featuring state-of-the-art equipment, experts in custom power and HVAC solutions, a safety and equipment training branch and an industry-leading safety rating, it’s successfully helping companies improve efficiencies, maximize outage time and increase system reliability.

As the single largest provider of mobile generation equipment and switchgear, with 1500 MW of temporary mobile generation, it can meet the need for any-size generation. Working with its partners, United Rentals is able to quickly design and deliver customized solutions in mobile switchgear and mobile substations to meet customers’ voltage needs and solve non-generated power problems.

The journey to new technologies and new business models will bring many challenges and a few unknowns that demand innovative solutions. Learn more about how United Rentals can help your company prepare for the expected — and the unexpected.

Learn More About United Rentals

Or call at 1.800.UR.RENTS