Rows of solar panels in a solar farm

Renewable energy - international collaboration

As countries around the world set out to reduce their carbon emissions in the move towards net zero, energy production from renewable sources is becoming increasingly important. Understanding how weather and climate impact these systems is vital for building resilience both now and in a changing climate. For example, accurate predictions of weather conditions at site specific locations help to predict output from wind and solar energy systems, which in turn helps to ensure the grid is balanced between demand and supply, reducing the risk of power outages. Looking further ahead, understanding how weather conditions resulting in poor energy output (such as winds that are too strong or too weak) may change in the future is also important for building resilience into the future energy system.

Solar energy in South Africa

In South Africa, a mismatch between high demand for energy and a shortage of supply can lead to frequent power cuts . As the climate changes, the stress on the energy sector is expected to increase, which could have detrimental impacts on energy-intensive industries such as agriculture and mining, crucial sectors for the South African economy. Building a resilient energy network is therefore important from both an economic and environmental perspective, and reliable renewable energy production forms a crucial element of this network.

The South African Department of Energy has committed to achieving 40% renewable energy by 2030, with plans that 1/3 of this supply will come from solar energy. South Africa are well placed to capitalise on solar energy, with an average of 2500 sunshine hours per year. The WCSSP South Africa project has been investigating how site-specific solar radiation forecasts can be used to model solar power. By comparing site-specific solar radiation forecasts to observations at 12 sites across South Africa, scientists have demonstrated that these forecasts are skilful up to three days in advance.  It is hoped that these forecasts could help energy systems operators better estimate near term supply and demand, which is essential to keeping the electricity grid balanced at all times.

Wind energy and hydropower in China

China aims to reach carbon neutral targets by 2060, with large scale development of wind energy forming a crucial pillar in their strategy. Research from the CSSP China project has developed knowledge of the wind energy sector to help maximise the efficiency of wind power generation in China and globally. Using the Met Office seasonal forecasting system, CSSP China research showed that average near-surface wind speeds can be skilfully forecast for winter (December – February) a month in advance for some regions of China. In the future, these seasonal forecasts have the potential to help wind farms in these areas predict their expected output, helping the energy sector to make important decisions for meeting energy demand.  

Hydropower also plays an important role in current and future energy systems. The Yangtze River has hydroelectric dams that rely on seasonal rainfall to produce electricity for provinces and major cities in eastern and southern China including Shanghai. Since 2016, the CSSP China project has been trialling a prototype climate service based on seasonal forecasts of summer monsoon rainfall. The product is used by collaborators at the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) and the water management organisations in the Yangtze Basin.

These forecasts help decision makers reduce the risk of flood events while also meeting their hydroelectricity quotas. “We developed a positive flood control plan, effectively stopping the flooding, and reducing the flood pressure on middle and lower reaches”. Feedback from a user of the seasonal forecast climate service.

Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals

Outputs from the WCSSP programme support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The development of forecasts for renewable energy systems particularly supports goals 7 (affordable and clean energy), 13 (climate action) and 17 (partnerships for the goals).  Find out more about how the Met Office supports the SDGs.