A study led by BSC establishes a methodology capable of mitigating energy crisis in Europe through climate predictions

21 April 2022
Researchers propose a method capable of predicting variations in renewable energy generation months in advance through climate predictions.

This work can help anticipate electricity demand and expected renewable energy generation across Europe, as well as prevent energy price crisis

"Beyond the mitigation of climate change, the energy crisis that Europe is experiencing sends a clear message: our electricity system needs to move towards greater quotas of renewables to achieve energy independence", says Francisco Doblas, one of the leaders of the study.

In order to protect the planet, the European Commission announced in 2020 its commitment to make Europe the first continent with zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Just a few days ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned about the urgent need to reduce these emissions in the short term.

The great bottleneck to achieve this great challenge is the decarbonisation of the energy sector. However, one of the main limiting factors in the supply of renewable energies such as wind and solar energy is their dependence on the weather, specifically on atmospheric conditions such as wind speed or temperature, which in turn are uncertain due to the natural variability and climate change.

A new study carried out by scientists from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) led by Francisco Doblas, Director of the Department of Earth Sciences, and Llorenç Lledó, researcher from the same Department, shows for the first time how changes in atmospheric circulation patterns on a planetary scale - known as teleconnections - affect the generation of renewable energy in different European countries.

According to the authors of the study, the results are of special relevance for the future of electricity systems in Europe, since they propose a method to anticipate variations in the generation of renewable energies months in advance using climate predictions. These forecasts can be very useful for electricity network operators in order to program alternative energy sources; to energy traders to estimate electricity prices; and governments to prevent crisis in energy prices.

The work has been published by the magazine Renewable Energy, a benchmark in renewable energy and energy transition.

"Beyond the mitigation of climate change, the energy crisis that Europe is experiencing as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine sends a clear message: our electricity system needs to move towards greater quotas of renewables to achieve energy independence. And that can only be can achieve with a better understanding and predictability of weather and climate fluctuations that affect renewable energy sources," says Doblas.

Effect on renewables of the atmospheric circulation in the European continent

Teleconnections are numerical indices that summarize air movements around the earth's surface, thus connecting weather conditions in regions far apart from each other. In Europe, electricity supply and demand are affected by changes in four teleconnections in the Euro-Atlantic region, which can cause variations in the earth's surface temperature, precipitation, solar radiation and wind speed: the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), East Atlantic Oscillation (EA), East Atlantic/Western Russia Oscillation (EAWR), and the Scandinavian Pattern (SCA).

This study proposes a methodology that transforms the seasonal forecasts of the four Euro-Atlantic teleconnections into wind and solar energy forecasts. The results show the dependence of wind and solar generation on the state of these teleconnections and how seasonal forecasts can help those responsible for the energy sector to better understand the tension between supply and demand in the European electricity system.

"Teleconnections like the NAO have already proven useful for the European electricity sector in explaining recent episodes of low wind power generation or high energy demand. With this study we show how seasonal predictions from teleconnections can inform months in advance of a possible risk of low production of renewable energy, while it can serve to better inform those responsible for making decisions in this regard", concludes Lledó.

This work has been funded by the European Union through its Horizon 2020 program and the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

  • Reference: Llorenç Lledó, Jaume Ramon, Albert Soret, Francisco-Javier Doblas-Reyes. Seasonal prediction of renewable energy generation in Europe based on four teleconnection indices. Renewable Energy, Volume 186, 2022, Pages 420-430, ISSN 0960-1481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2021.12.130

About the BSC Earth Sciences Department

The Department of Earth Sciences of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) was created in 2006 with the aim of better understanding the behavior of the Earth system, focusing its research work on atmospheric processes and the modeling of climate change.

With more than 100 people, it is a unique department in Spain that has become a benchmark in the fields of air quality, climate prediction and environmental services.

Among its missions is also the management and transfer of technology to support the main challenges of society using high-performance computing (HPC) and Big Data infrastructures, as well as the dissemination of real-time information on quality of air and climate in collaboration with the Spanish authorities and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).