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Uses and Applications of Climate Forecasts for Power Utilities

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  • 1 Changnon Climatologist, Mahomet, Illinois
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The uses and potential applications of climate forecasts for electric and gas utilities were assessed 1) to discern needs for improving climate forecasts and guiding future research, and 2) to assist utilities in making wise use of forecasts. In-depth structured interviews were conducted with 56 decision makers in six utilities to assess existing and potential uses of climate forecasts. Only 3 of the 56 use forecasts. Eighty percent of those sampled envisioned applications of climate forecasts, given certain changes and additional information. Primary applications exist in power trading, load forecasting, fuel acquisition, and systems planning, with slight differences in interests between utilities. Utility staff understand probability-based forecasts but desire climatological information related to forecasted outcomes, including analogs similar to the forecasts, and explanations of the forecasts. Desired lead times vary from a week to three months, along with forecasts of up to four seasons ahead. The new NOAA forecasts initiated in 1995 provide the lead times and longer-term forecasts desired. Major hindrances to use of forecasts are hard-to-understand formats, lack of corporate acceptance, and lack of access to expertise. Recent changes in government regulations altered the utility industry, leading to a more competitive world wherein information about future weather conditions assumes much more value. Outreach efforts by government forecast agencies appear valuable to help achieve the appropriate and enhanced use of climate forecasts by the utility industry. An opportunity for service exists also for the private weather sector.

Corresponding author address: Stanley A. Changnon, 801 Buckthorn Circle, Mahomet, IL 61853.

The uses and potential applications of climate forecasts for electric and gas utilities were assessed 1) to discern needs for improving climate forecasts and guiding future research, and 2) to assist utilities in making wise use of forecasts. In-depth structured interviews were conducted with 56 decision makers in six utilities to assess existing and potential uses of climate forecasts. Only 3 of the 56 use forecasts. Eighty percent of those sampled envisioned applications of climate forecasts, given certain changes and additional information. Primary applications exist in power trading, load forecasting, fuel acquisition, and systems planning, with slight differences in interests between utilities. Utility staff understand probability-based forecasts but desire climatological information related to forecasted outcomes, including analogs similar to the forecasts, and explanations of the forecasts. Desired lead times vary from a week to three months, along with forecasts of up to four seasons ahead. The new NOAA forecasts initiated in 1995 provide the lead times and longer-term forecasts desired. Major hindrances to use of forecasts are hard-to-understand formats, lack of corporate acceptance, and lack of access to expertise. Recent changes in government regulations altered the utility industry, leading to a more competitive world wherein information about future weather conditions assumes much more value. Outreach efforts by government forecast agencies appear valuable to help achieve the appropriate and enhanced use of climate forecasts by the utility industry. An opportunity for service exists also for the private weather sector.

Corresponding author address: Stanley A. Changnon, 801 Buckthorn Circle, Mahomet, IL 61853.
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