Copernicus • Last update: 03/07/2020
The recovery plan and the decarbonization of the economy after the pandemic provides an effective use of renewable energy sources. Therefore, the representatives of “green” energy and the operators of energy systems are paying increasing attention to climate data in order to optimize energy production.
2019 was especially bright: so many hours of sunlight was not observed on the continent at least since the early 80’s. And especially bright, he became for the solar industry: compared with 2018 the year of its generating capacity more than doubled ― the biggest jump over the last decade. The share of renewable energy sources (RES) is growing steadily, and in 2019 it reached a record value at 34.6%. Although the pandemic COVID-19 slowed down the creation of new capacities of “green” generation, development of renewable energy sources becomes more critical for the economic recovery of Europe and the implementation of ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-55% by 2030. Today the industry is facing the dual task: to rapidly increase its share in the energy system and enhance its reliability and efficiency in a changing climate.
Source: data from EUROSTAT for the period up to 2017; calculations by Agora Energiewende and Sandbag for the 2018 and 2019 forecasts according to the “Long run” strategy to 2030, European Commission, 2018
“The transition to “green” energy is one of the fundamental points of the package of remedial measures proposed by the [European] Commission at the end of may, said EU energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. ― Our strategy “the European green deal” aimed at achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and to increase the competitiveness of our economy,” she added. According to the International Agency for renewable energies (IRENA), the EU can significantly increase its share of renewable energy in the energy balance and make a profit. This is indicated by the reduction in the cost of technology. Although the ambitious plans for renewable energy in 2020 is not destined to be realized, growth is expected to rebound low-carbon energy, which will contribute to a drop in demand for oil and gas, which, according to forecasts, will continue after the pandemic.
Despite the fact that renewable energy can be resistant to economic shocks, they still have to prove their resilience to climate change and extreme weather conditions that are becoming more frequent. Changes in temperature, precipitation, radiation, sea level, concentration of particles in the air as well as heat waves, floods and droughts not only adversely affect the operation of renewable energy and the entire infrastructure, but to spur electricity demand.
Hydro Europe continue to produce less energy. According to Agora Energiewende, due to the decrease in precipitation and increasing air temperature the amount of energy generated in 2019 decreased by 6% and, as shown by the analysis of river flow, given in the “Report on the state of the climate in Europe in 2019”, the heat wave that swept France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, led to lower water levels in spring and summer. According to some scientists, the changing regimes of temperature and precipitation can lead to increased hydropower potential in the countries of Northern Europe and decrease in the South of the continent.
Source: Map of Stoke rivers, compiled by the emergency Service “Copernicus”. Image courtesy of the emergency Service program “Copernicus” / European centre for medium-range weather forecasts.
A high degree of uncertainty and forecasts are wind speed, thus even minor changes can seriously affect the amount of electricity. In 2018 a low wind speed resulted in a 20% decrease in energy production. Extreme weather events and sea level rise may have an impact on the infrastructure of wind farms, both onshore and offshore. The segment of solar energy also has to deal with an uncertain climatic variables. According to some studies, increased levels of solar radiation in Europe (10%) will increase electricity production, but global warming may lead to the opposite effect, since the photovoltaic panels lose their effectiveness with increasing temperature.
Source: EUMETSAT CM SAF, the duration of sunshine. Image courtesy of the office for the control of climate change (C3S) / EUMETSAT CM-SAF/DWD.
“Climate research shows that extreme weather phenomena occur more often ― but how often? It is extremely important to ensure the reliability of renewable energy sources,” says Colin McKinnon, Director of the Institute for environmental Analytics. “Climate data are of paramount importance to assess our energy needs and production capabilities, particularly in the renewable energy sector”, ― stressed the Commissioner Kadri Simson.
And since renewable energy producers must manage the uncertainty factors of the climate over the entire period of validity of their projects, the availability of climate data is becoming increasingly important to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy balance. Operators of energy systems must be able to anticipate extreme weather conditions such as floods, hurricanes, heat waves and snowfall, which could be affected by power lines, and to ensure the balance of supply and demand in accordance with the climatic conditions that influence the production and consumption of energy.
Experts in climate change and the Spanish company Ibedrola participating in the implementation of a number of projects throughout Europe, argue that “climate information plays a crucial role in the decision-making process at various stages of the projects.” In addition to measurements in the field, the company relies on the short-term and long-term climate forecasts. For example, in the project for the construction of wind turbines to Iberdrola professionals use climate data and weather patterns to determine the best installation location of the turbines and estimation of their production capacity during the entire service life.
“Climate data is used to calculate the consumption and generation of energy from solar, wind, hydro – and thermal power plants, which are then entered in the model grid to examine the effectiveness of the energy balance, says Dr. Gabriel Baro, Deputy Director for information and communication systems in the RTE, the French system operator grid. ― Given that the service life of infrastructure components is up to 80 years, there is an urgent need to assess the potential risks for existing plants and accurate assessment of future capacity that will be operated in a changing climate,” says Dr. Baro.
“Suppose you want to build a new solar plant,” says Dr Etienne Wey, CEO of Transvalor, providing services in the field of processing of meteorological data and information on solar radiation. ― The Bank will provide you with funding mainly on the basis of the forecast estimates the amount of energy that you will be able to develop in the next 20 years. Five years ago, uncertainties in the construction of new solar power plants had special significance, since the price per kilowatt/hour, which was ready to pay network operators and government agencies was very high compared to the present. Today the market is very competitive, so any factor with a high degree of uncertainty may be crucial for whether you will get profit or loss,” explains Dr. Wei.
“In the last 5 years using climate data in the energy sector is becoming more and more common,” says Dr. Alberto Troccoli, founding Director of the world energy and meteorological Council (WEMC). The Board directs operations for the energy sector, established within the Service for monitoring climate change (C3S), which provides climate data in near real time for the energy market participants.
Climate observations over the past years are one of the main sources of information necessary for modeling energy systems. The study of climate data for the previous periods of extreme high or low temperatures and their effect on the production of wind and solar energy will allow us to understand what might happen in a similar situation in the future. “This approach allows you to get a good idea of what will happen in the next few years, but in the context of changing climate data over the past years are no longer a source of important information for a more long-term forecasts, says Dr. Baro from RTE. ― For example, the heat wave of 2003, which has never been observed before, could become normal by 2050. It should definitely be considered when modelling the future energy system,” adds Dr. Baro.
C3S service provides meteorological data for previous years, seasonal forecasts and forecasts for several years ahead and a range of energy indicators. “We have models that address the impact of climate on demand, says Dr. Troccoli. ― In most countries of Europe the temperature continues to rise, which will stimulate demand, although consumption patterns vary, he explains. ― Changing the degree of climate variability, and climate models can provide information about the period when some energy resources are less stable than others.”
The service produces maps of climate variability, consumption and production of energy to all regions of the continent. Climate data will help participants in the energy sector to anticipate climate-driven changes in the industry (caused, for example, extremely low or high temperatures, drought), and to analyze the dependence of electricity demand on temperature and its relation with the change in the volume of production of renewable energy.
Demo scenarios for the development of solar energy in the coming decades, represented by the control Service climate change program “Copernicus”.
Climate data can help government authorities and energy providers to create an optimal energy balance based on renewable sources of energy. In 2017 C3S has launched a demonstration project to establish a European energy balance model based on climatic and energy data. “It helps to assess the energy balance in different regions of Europe will meet the demand, taking into account the impact of climate on the structure of energy resources,” says Colin McKinnon, IEA, directly participating in this project for C3S. One of the last C3S joint projects aimed at the development of standards the climate resilience of infrastructure that will allow engineers, architects and regulatory authorities to provide greater stability of designed objects, including renewable energy, to climate change and extreme weather conditions.
“Increasing the share of renewable sources of energy and volumes of consumption of electricity by final consumers (in the transport, heating, cooling) there are new possibilities of application of climatic data” ― say representatives of the company Ibedrola. For example, they can be used to perform the possibility of joint use of different technologies for energy storage during heat waves in order to maximize production and meet growing energy demand.
What remains to be done to improve climate resilience renewable energy? “The provision of hourly climate data is crucial for the energy system, says Dr. Baro from RTE. ― …models of power systems using data received every hour”. Since the climatic conditions are simulated only once a day or every few hours, users interpretiruya climatic data themselves and not always have the necessary equipment. According to Dr. Baro, the problem could be the development of standardized procedures to all users.