Wegaw’s solution to the challenges renewable energy producers face now and in the future.
Unmitigated global warming may result in frequent and more severe extreme-weather events. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report outlines the physical science basis in finding that the climate crisis is urgent, existential and man-made. Much of the damage caused by past and present anthropogenic emissions is now irreversible within this century to millennia. Such damage includes the rise in sea levels, permafrost thawing, marine heatwaves, heavy precipitation and shifts in seasonal timing. Climate change means that in the near future, renewables will become even more difficult to predict than they are today. This unpredictability increases volume risk. To sustainably navigate through the ecological crisis, whilst maintaining resilience and minimizing vulnerabilities, renewable energy producers are incorporating data for greater accuracy in short and long-term forecasting. Wegaw uses earth observation, remote sensing and machine learning technology to deliver historical and near-real time analysis of environmental variables each season, such as snow depth, wind speed and hydrological inflows, in order to better forecast energy production and reduce energy imbalances on the market.
“We combine satellite data with ground, meteorological and ancillary data which is then fused through deep learning and environmental models. This allows us to forecast the evolution of environmental variables on a regular basis with great accuracy. Overcoming the challenges associated with the unpredictability of renewable energy production – which are further exacerbated by climate change related fluctuations – promotes circular approaches to water and land use. The efficient use of scarce shared resources is a requisite step in the full transition to a realistic clean energy roadmap.”
In 2021, as a consequence of the global supply chain crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the energy crisis swept across the globe and prompted desperate government interventions. Most of these initiatives were geared towards alleviating energy customers from soaring prices, but in many instances the energy utilities have had to bear the brunt of it. In France for instance, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire acted to curb price increases by capping and freezing them throughout the year. State-owned energy giant EDF estimated a cost of €8bn due to selling its energy at the mandated lower price. In Spain, the government introduced a six-month long windfall tax on energy companies that are said to have profited from soaring prices. Although these measures are temporary, the volatility of energy prices on the market is a longstanding matter that requires resolution as countries move to decarbonise their energy mix. On April 4th 2022, the price of power in France reached €3000/MWh after an unseasonal cold snap caused a spike in demand at a time when half the country’s nuclear reactors remained offline. There are strong arguments to suggest that regulatory changes within the energy sector will aim to develop performance-driven frameworks for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment.
For hydropower stakeholders, Wegaw is optimizing MWh price in energy trading through snow-water-equivalent monitoring for near real-time and seasonal water forecasting. Since September 2021, Wegaw has been leading a new project with support from the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, as well as hydrology experts Hydrique. Together, they have welcomed nine hydroelectric companies on the Defrost for Hydropower project panel, marking a key milestone in Wegaw’s efforts to promote affordable and environmentally sustainable clean energy. With support from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy, Wegaw is demonstrating the use of its unique geospatial technology, combined with SLF’s snow expertise and Hydrique Engineers’ advanced modeling skills, to provide seasonal hydrological inflow forecasts of up to 4 months in advance. The economic impact assessment conducted subsequently, would allow for a determination of high leverage points for optimum power production and trading. More on the results of this project are to be announced later on this year.
In the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, international cooperation is guided by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the outcomes of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Non-state and sub-national actors such as cities, businesses, public-private entities and transnational initiatives are changing the landscape of clean energy transitions and influencing the development pathways adopted by each country. The Net-Zero by 2050 roadmap created by the International Energy Agency (IEA) identifies the power sector as the main source of CO2 emissions in many countries and that it should be the first sector to decarbonise. For many countries, it is now clear that their electricity market design must change to facilitate national decarbonisation without undermining electricity security. In South Korea, the IEA has proposed enhancements to price formation which include incorporating the cost of carbon into wholesale prices, either by allowing the emissions trading scheme to impact wholesale prices, or through taxation. In addition, it has been recommended to allow the shortages of operating reserves to be reflected in wholesale pricing during hours of scarcity, which would increase the prospects for flexible technologies. Meanwhile in Switzerland the long-term climate strategy for 2050 is that an increase in energy efficiency will enable the country to cope with an increasing domestic-supply shortage.
Wegaw’s focus on providing worldwide environmental insights takes into account the need for power producers to manage their renewable assets more efficiently as they position themselves competitively in a rapidly changing market.”
The Swiss Federal Council’s Energy Strategy 2020 and the revised Energy Act promulgated in 2018, aim to deliver the promise of clean energy to Switzerland. The Act seeks to ensure an economically and environmentally viable supply and distribution of energy, reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency, and to promote renewable energy expansion at home. Planned regulatory changes will simplify the approval procedures for large-scale wind and hydropower projects and provide tax incentives for other forms of clean energy installations. Notwithstanding the support to accelerate clean energy transitions, renewable energy infrastructure needs to be built for a circular economy. Wegaw is a SaaS-based solution that is highly scalable – with zero investment into expensive hardware and zero waste.
Tanaka Chibanda is an MBA in Sustainable Business candidate at Business School Lausanne, Switzerland. During his internship with Wegaw, he has participated in discussions focused on sustainability strategies, digital transformation and the global transition to cleaner energy.