Workshop on

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


Background Paper


The U.S. Weather Research Program aims to bring improved, more precise forecasts to vulnerable regions and weather-sensitive economic sectors.  This process involves fundamental research, public-private cooperation and collaboration, and the development and evaluation of prototype forecast products and decision support tools. In the planning process, researchers, forecasters, and the users of forecast information identify the most relevant issues with high potential for scientific progress. Through collaborative workshops, priorities, milestones, and resource needs are developed that initiate a fast track for scientific progress and a transition into operational forecasting and commercially available value-added products. Seven U.S. agencies currently support the U.S. Weather Research Program: NOAA, NSF, NASA, and the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture.


Identifying Weather Information Needs in the Electric Power Sector


Routine and extreme weather affect electricity consumption and the performance of equipment, both of which affect the cost and quality of electricity (frequency, voltage, reliability). Utilities use weather forecasts to interact with customers regarding impacts on service, to hedge risk in financial markets, and to plan maintenance, operations, infrastructure expansion, and recovery from damage. As deregulation and restructuring proceed, industry will establish new responsibilities and relationships that will require new tools and information for decision-making. This workshop will explore how weather forecasts and improved weather information can be anticipatory and provide resilience in the dynamic technological and institutional environment that characterizes the current electric power sector.


Previous workshops and studies have surveyed and documented the need for improved weather information in the electric power industry (see recommended reading below). Tailored weather information and decision support tools are currently available for some applications, but weather research and information is not being systematically used in the electric power sector. Besides opportunities to improve tailored weather information, barriers in technology, economics, culture, and policy could be removed to improve the value and effectiveness of new weather information. Recommendations from previous studies included changes to weather forecast variables, forecast communication methods, use of forecasts in decision support systems, observations and databases, data formats, data distribution systems, quality control procedures, interactions between researchers and users of weather data, and more effective use of the Internet.




Workshop Goals


This USWRP workshop has the following goals:


Trends and Issues


Deregulation and related institutional issues


Deregulation of the electric power industry is changing the allocation of responsibilities and risk in electric power system operations and management and increasing the utility of enhanced weather forecasts. Incentives in the traditional regulated industry encouraged the necessary investments in physical infrastructure to maintain reliability. The deregulated industry has been characterized by decentralized decision-making and difficulty in assigning responsibility for maintaining reliable service, profitability for stakeholders, and price stability. In the deregulated environment, incentives tend to encourage making profit on transactions of the lowest-cost electricity, rather than investing in software or hardware to maintain reliability. Power transfers can place a burden the grid and degrade reliability, with the consumer potentially paying the biggest penalty. At the same time, reliable electric power of high quality is ever more important in the expanding digital economy. Increased reliability is in high demand. Capturing the value of reliability will require a new market strategy and technology to coordinate new players and new consumer relationships, centered on telecommunications and control engineering. Decentralized stakeholders, probably communicating online, will need reliable, customized weather forecasts to manage both infrastructure operations and financial risks.


Grid Management


Grid-management is involving many more entities, and stakeholders with differing expertise all need the high quality information in forecasts and effective tools and decision support systems to integrate data, plan, and communicate their actions. New tools for representing and communicating grid conditions must emphasize speed, simplicity, and accuracy. Many tools in the industry are heading in the direction of visualization, as they are in meteorology. Visualization tools in the electric industry will combine the physical world of meteorology and electricity infrastructure, with the abstract notions of system performance. Emerging tools like probabilistic grid flow models seem to be well suited to integrating certain kinds of weather forecasts. Ensuring the highest value application will require ongoing collaborations between meteorologists in both the public and private sector and experts in the management of electric power system operations.



Demand Modeling


Demand, or load, modeling is a key planning tool that is strongly weather-dependent, and increasing crucial to increasing operating efficiencies in the restructured industry. Collaborative research can help determine the most valuable representation of weather variables and their uncertainty for assimilation into demand modeling tools. Under competition and with increased consumer involvement in the market, demand side management (DSM) alternatives will also alter demand models as prices change with load, and as consumers plan their own consumption more consciously with their own weather information and demand models.   This complex interaction of social and physical variables has the potential to produce significant non-linear dynamics in local and regional demand for electricity.


Distributed Generation


Some energy customers are meeting varying portions of their demand with local generation in order to more precisely anticipate energy costs and to maintain power quality and reliability. Military bases, hospitals, and companies in the credit card industry, telecommunications, banking, and computer chip manufacturing are most active in early adoption of distributed generation. Knowledge of accurate, location-specific weather, climate, and electricity market information is necessary to model the value of this investment over the long term. If retail electricity prices vary with load, and therefore weather, this calculation can be very complex.


Optimal operation of the distributed generation depends, at a minimum, on accurate 1-2 day weather forecasts. When cogeneration of heat (cold) is combined with the distributed generation installation, the importance of the weather becomes crucial to economic performance. These relationships must be studied and new tools for decision support refined and developed. As fuel cells for distributed generation reach market maturity, effective weather forecasts will be part of shaping a transition to a more sustainable energy economy.

The economic and reliable operation of the leading renewable resource, wind power generation, is especially demanding of accurate weather forecasts and tools for planning and operations.


Next Steps


The above very brief description of a few research opportunities related to improving the value of weather information to electric power operations are meant to give a flavor of what we hope to accomplish at the workshop.  We hope the workshop will:




The discussion above has used ideas and materials from the following publications:


Altalo, Mary G., M. Mondshine, J. Findsen, C. Mahoney, W. Keene, J. Doherty, Defining the Requirements of the U.S. Energy Industry for Climate, Weather, and Ocean Information, Science Applications International Corporation, 7/2000.


Barker, Brent, Technology and the Transformation of the Electric Industry. EPRI Journal 11-12/1996. p. 23-30.


Ilic, Marija, “The Future Power Grid”, Power Quality, 1 June, 2002.


Lee, Steven, Community Activity Room (CAR) Metaphor for Interstate Transmission Highways, EPRI Presentation, 4/9/2002


Murnane, Richard, M. Crowe, A. Eustis, S. Howard, J. Koepsell, R. Leffler, and R. Livezey, “The Weather Risk Management Industry’s Climate Forecast and Data Needs”, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, August 2002.


Overbye, T. J. and J. D. Weber, “Visualizing the Electric Grid”, IEEE Spectrum, February 2001, p. 52-58.


Pielke, Roger, Report of the U.S. Weather Research Program Workshop on the Weather Research Needs of the Private Sector, Palm Springs Workshop Report, Discussion Draft of 2 April 2001, 4/2/2001.


Samuelsen, Scott, Personal communication, National Fuel Cell Research Center, Personal Communication, 2002.


Societal Aspects of Weather: Report of the Sixth Prospectus Development Team of the USWRP to NOAA and NSF, Bull. Amer. Meteoro. Soc., 78, 867-875, 1997.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Distributed Generation: The Hot New Way to Generate Power (Part 1), Inside the Greenhouse, Summer 2002 EPA-430-N-02-004.


University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, “The U.S. Weather Research Program. Saving Lives, Money, and Time: Better Weather Forecasts for the Nation,” Brochure, 2002.