Report of the Workshop



Increasing the Value of Weather Information in the Operation of the Electric Power System


6-7 November 2002




Jeremy Hackney

Workshop Organizer

Environmental and Societal Impacts Group (ESIG)

National Center for Atmospheric Research*

PO Box 3000

Boulder, Colorado 80307-3000 USA





Sponsored by the United States Weather Research Program (USWRP)





18 February 2003





*The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Workshop Summary

Overview, Structure, and Goals

The vulnerability of the electric power system to routine weather, as well as to weather extremes, modifies and amplifies the direct impacts of weather on society. These direct impacts, such as winds, precipitation, and temperature, are magnified in social and economic importance when they degrade the quality of electricity, including: reduced voltage, unstable frequency, interruptions in service, downed power lines, and abrupt price fluctuations. These secondary impacts can concentrate, extend, or shift the spatial and temporal extent of the weather event. Reliable and high quality electric service is central to public welfare and economic productivity, yet much of the electric power infrastructure, decision making, and consumption, remains highly exposed to the weather. Precise advance knowledge of the weather’s influence on the electric power system may substantially reduce some of the most common and expensive societal impacts of weather.


It is a rare occasion when weather researchers and information providers sit down with the users of weather information in the electric power sector.  Yet, it is clear that improved weather information is critical to mitigating physical risks in this sector, and it also became clear during this workshop that the industry would like to interact more often and more closely with the providers of weather information.


Many decision makers are involved in producing and delivering electricity, with different decision protocols, different time and space horizons, and different areas of concern. However, they all share the goal of maintaining service reliability while meeting necessary revenue or cost goals. Utilities, regulators, electricity consumers, and researchers need to know how to better use weather information in order to reduce the amplification of weather impacts while ensuring a healthy business. Policy makers who seek tools to align these goals also need access to weather information in order to recognize the limits and opportunities presented by weather’s impact on the system. New weather information might also be needed, challenging weather researchers.


This workshop on improving the value of weather information for electric power operations outlined and prioritized research themes in meteorology that would be the most important in the electric power system. The theme encompassed reliability, information, and decision-making, in view of challenges and opportunities in the electric power industry’s emerging deregulated environment. Restructuring of the industry may provide a sufficiently competitive climate for decision makers to accept new concepts and tools that enable compensated risks related to weather and communications, such as a forward market for reliability, forecasts of equipment operating capacity, and decentralized system optimization under uncertainty.


Thirty-five representatives from the electric power industry, electric power research, academia, and research meteorology were invited to participate in the two-day workshop. The first day’s presentations were divided into four areas of business in the electric power sector: Demand, Supply, Delivery, and Trans-utility systems issues. The next day’s discussions began with four groups, and then the groups mingled to exchange ideas.


The goals of the workshop were to:


Workshop results

The workshop was held on 6-7 November 2002, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) campus in Boulder, Colorado. Thirty-five experts from the electric power industry and the meteorological sciences attended to discuss the weather information needs of the electric power sector and the collaborations necessary to improve the value of this information.


The presentations emphasized five major aspects of meteorological information in electric power: its value; which weather information is used and how it is procured; how this information is summarized and passed on to decision makers; internal and external barriers to better use of the information; and, finally, desired improvements in meteorological information and meteorologically based decision tools:



The discussions were lively and productive. Several suggested action items require a partnership to enhance decision support systems.  These included, in the near term,



Meanwhile, the industry needs to cultivate a culture that can utilize probability in decision-making, and in the slightly longer term, in collaboration with the government sector, it needs to develop business tools to use probabilistic forecast information.


The US Weather Research Program (USWRP), which sponsored the workshop, provides critical research underpinnings needed to improve forecasts required by this sector. However, this research must be focused in appropriate areas: improving forecasts of temperature and wind in the atmospheric surface layer; urban weather; cloud cover and quantitative precipitation; precise timing of fronts; seasonal deviation from climatology; and extreme events that could alter normal operations or threaten power outages.


Accomplishments of the Workshop:


1.       Identification of weather research needs for specific industry decisions

a.       Improved temperature and wind forecasts

b.       Urban weather (heat island effect, etc.)

c.       Cloud cover and quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF)

d.       Precise timing of the arrival of fronts

e.       Deviation from climatology (seasonal forecasts)

f.         Forecasts of extreme events (events capable of causing disruption)


2.       Identification of patterns of the use of weather information in industry

a.       Perception of poor forecast reliability, non-applicable weather variables

b.       Inability to use detailed weather information (time constraints, data format, quality control)

c.       Culture which prefers deterministic forecasts rather than probability


3.       Identification of enthusiastic extramural collaborators in industry and government

a.       Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP), University of California Irvine

b.       Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

c.       National Renewable Research Laboratory (NREL)

d.       Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

e.       Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

f.         Electricity Industry Center (EIC), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

g.       PowerWorld, Inc.

h.       Western Area Power Association (WAPA)

i.         Consortium for Electric Reliability Solutions (CERTS)


4.       Identification of near-term collaborative research goals

a.       Common weather data format

b.       Increased compatibility of weather data with GIS

c.       Continuing education in industry about meteorological capabilities

d.       Development and value demonstration of probabilistic decision making and tools

e.       Study of relevance of weather forecasts in consumer decisions under deregulation

f.         Urban weather

g.       Denser observation network with quality control and online access or delivery of data

Next Steps

The next steps following this workshop involve:


  1. Gathering more information in small workshops on specific topics, e.g., the spatial optimization of information needs, the discovery of aligned programs in the topic, and focused stakeholder exchanges;
  2. Assembling educational materials for the industry about the modern capabilities of weather forecasting;
  3. A demonstration project in the potential value of probabilistic forecasts with application to a particular business or operational decision.