How U.K. Utilities Can Use Weather Insights to Prepare for Extreme Weather

In the U.K., extreme weather events are impacting the infrastructure of utility companies more than ever. Within the past five years, unprecedented heat waves, floods, and storms have affected public demand and outages.

Recently, a team of DTN experts presented a webinar highlighting what utilities can do to become more weather resilient.


Future Weather Is Here Today

Last year, Europe experienced its warmest year on record, and in particular, extreme summer temps for the U.K.

“…a study shows for every degree rise in daytime temps, electricity demand rose by 300 megawatts.”

Paul Knightly, Senior Weather Risk Manager at DTN, discussed the current state of climate in the U.K. and noted that “with a warming climate, hot periods of weather will become more intense, leading to increased challenges for the power grid.”

It’s easy to connect high temperatures and increased energy demand, but even incremental increases in temperatures have a significant impact on electric demand. Knightly cited a study from Imperial College London that shows for every degree rise in daytime temps, electricity demand rose by 300 megawatts. That’s because “cooling becomes less efficient” in hot weather, explained Knightly.

So far U.K. utilities have been able to handle the recent impact. But research shows that if global temperatures increase by 1.5 C, the U.K. will experience 30% more cooling days.


The Balance of Renewable Energy and Grid Resilience

As the fastest-warming continent, Europe’s temperatures have been rising at roughly twice the global average. And utility companies are particularly impacted by this extreme heat. While utilities look for long-term strategies to speed up the transition to renewable resources, in the short term, these companies are under mounting pressure to proactively ensure grid resilience and customer satisfaction.

Using weather intelligence can help utilities achieve both short-term and long-term goals.

“It is important that energy companies leverage weather and climate intelligence to predict outages and manage renewable energy,” said Nick Wilson, Director of Product Management at DTN. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and integrated analytics can improve grid resilience and operational performance.”

Wilson highlighted several of the Storm Risk suite of solutions from DTN, which use AI and machine learning to deliver insights to its specific service areas or assets.

“Our utility customers around the globe are committed to keeping the lights on,” Wilson said. “They want to know the weather impacts [that are] relevant to them so that they can make confident decisions in the moment.”


A New Challenge to the Power Grid: Extreme Heat

Extreme temperatures can cause issues across multiple operations within the utility sector. Worker health and safety, a top priority for U.K. utilities, is increasingly challenged by extreme heat. Revised processes and work orders help to keep outdoor workers safe.

“It is important that energy companies leverage weather and climate intelligence to predict outages and manage renewable energy”

When it comes to transmission networks, high temperatures broadly have a negative impact on electricity generation. One of the biggest issues is the sharp increase in the temperature of the water used as a coolant, make generating electricity less efficient.

Willie Zitterzien, Senior Solutions Engineer at DTN, said extreme heat also has impact to the physical infrastructure.

“When materials get hot, they expand, so things like aluminum-clad transmission cables can swell causing them to slack and sag,” noted Zitterzien. This, in turn, increases the cable’s electrical resistance, which decreases the lines’ efficiency.

Power disruption due to weather is a major concern across all industries and a serious concern for the utilities that manage them. This has been validated by a recent U.K. Climate Change Risk Assessment which lists climate-related failure of the power system as a priority risk area and an urgent issue.

Surprisingly, given the urgency of being more weather resilient, many utilities report their extreme weather contingency plans haven’t been updated in the past year or more.


Weather Intelligence Supports Weather Resiliency

It’s easier and more cost-effective for utilities to prepare for these rising issues rather than wait for something to happen. It’s clear that despite a clear understanding of the threat climate change poses to operations, the U.K. needs to be more varied regarding contingency planning.

“Operational Intelligence can help utilities make faster decisions, maintain reputation management, and improve resource efficiency and safety.”

“One way utilities can be better prepared and potentially mitigate weather-related power outages is by accessing and optimizing more data for decision-making,” Wilson noted.

Operational Intelligence, that is, integrating real-time analytics with diverse and relevant data sets, can help utilities make faster decisions, improve reputation, and improve resource efficiency and safety.

Power companies that use meaningful hyperlocal data in their response and recovery decisions will likely anticipate potential weather-related disruptions and load spikes better. This will help maintain reliable service. Being armed with information also helps a utility proactively—and confidently—communicate with its customers, which supports improved reputational efforts.

For more insights about the risks of extreme weather, and how utilities can better prepare for its impacts, watch the DTN Weather Intelligence and the Power Grid webinar.