This will not only require building more resilient energy infrastructure itself, but also creating tools and solutions to better anticipate and mitigate climate risks. In recent years the European Commission (EC) has invested in a series of initiatives including research, projects and innovation that support the development of climate services for the energy sector.
Non-industrial energy demand, especially in mid-latitude countries, is primarily driven by variations in temperature, cloud cover and wind. Extreme weather also visibly impacts the energy sector by causing damages to exposed network assets. The power line pillars that crashed to the ground in Northern Spain during the severe winter of 2010 demonstrate how vulnerable equipment can be to events that fall beyond their design range.
The complex interaction between energy assets and weather is further complicated by climate change. Any alteration of climate characteristics inevitably affects the assumptions made when identifying and evaluating the possible environmental risks faced by a particular type of equipment. From oil pipelines built on melting permafrost to hydropower plants whose basins never fill to capacity, the low-frequency variability of climate and its long-term changes present new challenges for which the energy sector is not yet fully equipped.
Designing an energy network capable of coping with a sudden surplus or deficit of energy is a complicated task that must be informed by the best available knowledge of future climate conditions. Energy traders and practitioners use statistical tools and big data technologies to address these issues. With further development of high quality observational data sets and tailored climate predictions, there is the potential to significantly boost the energy sector’s ability to meet these challenges.
EC climate service initiatives are often designed to develop proof-of-concept services, prototypes and pre-operational tools. The expectation is that they will provide effective lessons and tools for developing a climate-resilient society.
EUPORIAS is a research project funded through the EC's 7th Framework Programme. This project has produced a number of prototype climate services that address the needs of specific sectors on a seasonal timescale. Although the effects of climate change are not directly perceivable on the seasonal timescale, developing management practices that account for climate variability can be an effective way of building climate change resilience in the energy industry. Within EUPORIAS a specific prototype, called RESILIENCE, was developed for the energy sector.
RESILIENCE addresses wind energy production, providing seasonal predictions of future wind speed at a global scale. Its objectives include the raising of awareness of recent advances in seasonal climate predictions, development of a tool to address the needs of specific users and implementation of an effective solution for visualizing probabilistic information. The project focuses on the assessment of average wind conditions in regions with a great number of wind power infrastructure installations. The RESILIENCE prototype uses the ten-metre wind speed forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) System 4 operational seasonal prediction system, which is based on a fully coupled global climate model. Predictions are validated with the surface wind speed data from ERA-Interim.
Equal attention was applied to the scientific aspects of tailoring the post-processing and calibration of the data to the needs of the energy sector, and to the graphical representation of probabilistic predictions in a format that is easily legible and engaging for users. The prototype targets two main user groups: energy traders looking beyond the extended weather range of their operations and wind farm operators wanting to assess the expected return on investment and plan maintenance operations in periods that minimize costs and loss of gains. The most visible outcome is Project UKKO, a global map with a data overlay designed to enable viewers to quickly spot patterns and trends in future wind conditions, then drill in to detailed prediction breakdowns on a regional level. Project UKKO is a Future Everything, BSC and Met Office project for EUPORIAS.
Predictions of wind speed from ECMWF System 4. The colour and directions of the glyphs indicate the seasonal forecast at that location. The thickness of the glphs indicates the mean wind speed predicted for the coming season. The opacity provides a measure of the skill of the prediction measured by the Ranked Probability Score. The regions with no glyphs are the regions where climate predictions provide no additional information to the one available from climatology. The user can see the historical time series for wind speed (bottom left) and the future predictions in the form of a probability cone (bottom right).
Copernicus climate service
To make its society more climate resilient, the European Commission designed the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) to develop a market of climate services in Europe. Through its Sectoral Information System, C3S is developing proof-of-concepts addressing the needs of specific sectors. Two of the seven C3S projects funded as of autumn 2016 aim to develop tools for the energy sector.
The first is demonstrating, with the support of the University of East Anglia and its sub-contractors, how different energy mixes in Europe could meet demand on timescales, ranging from the next season to the next decades. Its main goal is the development of a climate service demonstrator comprised of an array of tools. These include an interactive web interface that will allow users to assess how energy production and demand will change in response to climate-related factors in a specific regions of Europe based on energy scenarios from the e-Highway2050 project. Visualization tools will provide energy supply and demand profiles and inform the analysis of an energy system’s performance during “average” and “extreme” events on both country and regional levels.
The other is a collaborative effort between climate research and service centres and energy practitioners coordinated by C3S with the Atomic Energy Commission. The goal of the project is to provide ten energy-relevant pan-European indicators of climate trends and variability with cross-sector consistency. This will help users to assess and predict the vulnerability of their infrastructure to climate extremes in the coming decades. The project’s visualization system, expected to launch at the end of 2017, will provide simple statistics and synthesized or advanced data sets for climate variables and energy indicators as well as information, documentation and product evaluation statements.
None of these initiatives will single-handedly equip the energy sector with all the tools to face future climate-related challenges; however, these innovative prototype services and demonstrators are building momentum and developing crucial bases upon which others can expand. The recent adoption of energy as an exemplar for the Global Framework for Climate Services validates the necessity of these experiences and supports further development of climate services to meet the demand of the energy sector and improve its capability.
Carlo Buontempo, European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)