Energy and Meteorology Portal

W&CS for the Energy System

Weather and climate services involve the production, translation, transfer, and use of weather climate knowledge and information in climate-informed decision-making and climate-smart policy and planning.  Easily accessible, timely, and decision-relevant scientific information can help society to cope with current climate variability and limit the economic and social damage caused by climate risks and also help to reach the net zero goal (Bruno Soares and Buontempo, 2019).

The Global Framework for Climate Services has developed a strategy – an energy exemplar – to improve climate services for the energy sector (WMO-GFCS, 2017), where tailored tools and systems get specifically developed for the sector, that allow to analyse and manage operations, transmission, distribution and risks under current hydro-meteorological conditions, identify suitable sites for renewable generation, run tests for weather-proofing infrastructure and adequacy assessments in the face of climatic variability and change.

However, since the energy exemplar was published, there has been an acceleration on initiatives aiming to decarbonise the energy sector. Therefore, an updated understanding of their status was needed. A new publication was released, aiming to review the current background and provide guidelines required to strengthen the development, and enable a widespread uptake, of integrated W&CSs for the Energy sector (WMO-SG-ENE, 2022). The objectives of this document are:

  • To review current state of knowledge on weather and climate services value chains in the energy industry;
  • To benchmark best practice and identify knowledge gaps and barriers to the uptake of these services;
  • To describe implementation approaches, including business models, public-private-academic partnerships and capacity development programmes to assist with the deployment of these services.

Additionally, to be able to provide tailored information required by the energy sector, there needs to be an investment in improved weather, water and climate services that can be used to ensure our energy infrastructure is resilient to climate-related shocks and to inform measures to increase energy efficiency across multiple sectors. A report reviewing the State of Climate Services for the energy sector using data, analysis, and a series of case studies, was produced to illustrate and explain how countries can improve their energy infrastructure, resilience and security through better climate services, supported by sustainable investments (WMO No. 1301, 2022).

An energy system with a high penetration of renewable energy is a system tightly linked to meteorological conditions: snow and rain for hydropower, wind for wind power, sun radiation for solar power. This tight relationship between meteorology and renewable energy means that in order for energy systems to be more efficient and resilient they should take advantage of past and future weather and climate information, which is the role of W&CSs (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Weather and Climate data (lower row; historical over the past, and forecasts/projections over the future) and their typical use in the energy sector (top row). Source: WMO SG-ENE, 2022.

Figure 1: Weather and Climate data (lower row; historical over the past, and forecasts/projections over the future) and their typical use in the energy sector (top row). Source: WMO SG-ENE, 2022.

Moreover, energy infrastructure (e.g. electricity networks) is affected by extreme events and their impact on end-users can be exacerbated by the increasing inter-connectivity of systems, due to energy transmission infrastructure and sector coupling. Energy systems are becoming more flexible and efficient, but at the same time more complex. And this complexity sometimes translates into a rise in vulnerability to unpredictable and extreme events. Climate services have proved their effectiveness in using the available weather and climate information to mitigate the impact of extreme events, in many sectors including energy (Dubus et al., 2018, WMO-GFCS, 2017).

Another way to stratify the use of W&CSs for the energy sector is under the following three categories:

  • Energy Access:
    • Resource assessments and prospections for new plant development
    • Operations and management of renewable power plants, including detecting appropriate windows for maintenance
    • Adequacy assessments to ensure the energy system is resilient and capable to deliver energy to their users under all types of weather conditions including projected extreme weather, water, and climatic changes.
    • Climate risk assessments for project development, insurance companies and investors. These assessments can also be included in Climate disclosure reports
    • Mitigation and adaptation plans for a greater climate resilience across the sector
    • Energy efficiency plans, helping to reduce energy consumption, and therefore reducing carbon emissions

The quality of today’s weather forecasts is overall sufficient to meet the needs of the energy industry. However, transmission system operators have to manage hybrid grids fed by several renewable sources, located in different geographic areas and therefore weather conditions and patterns, including errors in the meteorological forecasts, become more and more critical, especially when high amounts of renewables capacity are installed in a small region. Therefore, identifying weather events that can be associated with large forecast errors can help to improve important aspects of the prediction models and also evaluate these improvements under similar situations (Dubus et al., 2022).

The following table shows some example of weather situations that can be associated with large forecast errors.

Renewable energy source Weather situation Comment

Solar energy

Low stratus and fog
- Particularly critical if spatially extended

- Requires accurate timing for presence and absence of low stratus

Snow cover on PV panels and its melt
Small scale clouds
Convection, or broken clouds, fast changes in the cloud cover
Sand, mineral dust or other aerosols
e.g. dragged in from deserts, wildfires

Wind energy

Nocturnal low level jet
Timing and localisation
On turbines and power lines
Turbulence in the boundary layer
Large gradients (wind ramps)

Table:  Examples of critical weather situations for the energy industry identified during dialogues between meteorologists and end-users (e.g. transmission system operators, renewable plant operators (Source: WMO SG-Ene, 2022)