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Impacts on energy

Wind resource is uncertain and understanding future resource represents a significant challenge

The Met Office has been working closely with UK energy companies on EP2, an innovative project looking at the effects of climate change on the energy industry.

This project is the first of its kind, being sponsored by an entire sector. It has resulted in companies across the industry forming a new energy and climate change group where they will share knowledge, experiences and best practice.

Energy project background

In 2006 the Met Office and three leading energy companies launched a pioneering scooping study into climate change and its potential impacts on the UK energy industry. The study was the first nationwide attempt to identify how climate change will affect energy generation; distribution and transmission, and demand. As well as initial indications on how climate change could impact the industry over the next century, it also identified areas where further research was required.

Following the scoping study an industry-funded project (EP2) was set up, involving 11 UK energy companies, focusing on the priorities identified by the earlier study.

Supported by climate scientists, experts from the industry worked together to understand their precise requirements and developed practical applications and business strategies for a changing world.

How we worked with the energy industry

Energy project developments

So far EP2 has:

  • Developed innovative new techniques that apply climate models to energy applications so that the industry is better placed to adapt to climate change

  • Investigated future wind resource, enabling the industry to understand the continued uncertainty of future wind power. This will assist risk management and investment decisions

  • Modelled future soil conditions and their impact on cables. This has helped companies understand the cost and benefits of installing cables for a more resilient future network

  • Built a tool to enable UK coastal and marine sites of interest to be screened to assess if sea level rise should be considered in more detail

  • Investigated how the urban heat island effect may change in the future, so that network companies can develop plans for their infrastructure in cities

  • Produced guidance to help make best use of public information on climate change, such as the United Kingdom Climate Impacts Programme new scenarios of climate change

  • Delivered new site-specific climatologies of temperature, wind speed and solar radiation that account for climate change, so that decisions can be based on realistic climate expectations

  • Examined the relationship between historic weather patterns and network fault performance, with a view to developing a tool to predict future network resilience.

Energy project findings

Among the findings from the project were:

  • With a few exceptions, such as the thermal ratings of equipment and apparatus, there is currently no evidence to support adjusting network design standards. For example, existing design standards for overhead line conductors do not require change

  • The type of risk to transformers will be affected. Temperature thresholds will be exceeded more often and there will be more hot nights in cities

  • Soil conditions will change - higher temperatures and seasonal differences in soil moisture are expected. Future conditions could be included in cable rating studies by increasing average summer soil temperatures in the models by approximately 0.5 °C per decade

  • The output of thermal power stations (and in particular combined cycle gas turbines) could be suppressed, with higher air temperature meaning lower air density and lower mass flow. Conditions at each location should be considered, especially during redesign or new build and, if appropriate, adaptation planned

  • Historical climatologies are no longer valid because climate is not stationary. The new climatologies that take account of climate change are already being adopted and will improve demand forecasting and planning out to 10 years ahead

  • Wind resource is uncertain and understanding future resource represents a significant challenge. Although we don't yet have the answers, this project has highlighted possible strategies for improving our knowledge.

Energy project next steps

An energy and climate change industry group is to be set up. This group will:

  • share the latest science and its application to business;

  • meet to discuss latest innovations and developments in climate science with leading experts;

  • share thoughts and ideas on areas of common interest as companies work to adapt to climate change.

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