It’s no secret that electric utilities are facing many changes. From big data to distributed energy resources to increased regulatory management, new initiatives are affecting every part of the industry. 

Simultaneously, staffing levels are staying the same or declining despite record capital spend. The result is in-house personnel being stretched thin by taking on more responsibility and juggling extra tasks such as implementing new change initiatives. Utilities in this situation will find value partnering with an engineer-procure-construct (EPC) firm that offers on-tap skill and experience, with dedicated resources, to streamline project execution.

Leveraging EPCs to Bridge Gaps and Add Value

Years ago, sizeable in-house departments supported the design-bid-build project delivery strategy for electric utilities. Today, these departments are light on resources, or in some cases, the staff does not exist. The result is fewer personnel available to manage the interface and communication among operator, engineer, suppliers and construction contractors.

Ineffective communication — often stemming from a shortage of in-house personnel — is the number one risk factor in projects and adds significant risk to the project scope, schedule and budget.  

Partnering with an EPC firm can offer tremendous value for project execution. EPC contractors bring the commitment and project experience to design and build the assets a utility will own, operate and maintain.

Assessing the Advantage

Working with an EPC delivery model for project execution delivers significant advantages for utilities.

  • Increased efficiency: An effective EPC delivery model leverages field-proven processes and technologies that simplify efforts and accelerate action no matter the project size or complexity.
  • Reduced risk: Early construction engagement, project management experience and process tools such as Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) provide the foundation to control project scope, manage budgets and meet turnover expectations.
  • Improved schedule reduces cost: Parallel engineering, procurement and construction activities coupled with a constructible design from the beginning result in a shorter schedule that ultimately reduces project cost.
  • Resource management: Tapping into an integrated EPC team not only reduces the complexity for utilities to manage projects, but it also supplements resources long-term as project demands ebb and flow.
  • Flexible delivery: The EPC project delivery model can take many forms to meet the unique demands of the project and owner, including project complexity, resource availability, procurement requirements and risk appetite.  
Ben Frerichs is a business development manager at Burns & McDonnell in the Energy Group. He has been a vital asset to the company for over 11 years.