WCS Forecasts for UK Gas Demand

Gas Demand

In the United Kingdom, the weather is a critical concern for natural gas and electricity demand, and the UK energy industry relies on highly accurate forecasts to prepare for future demand and anticipate market price fluctuations. One of the key variables that allows the industry to understand and predict natural gas demand is a Composite Weather Variable, which combines temperature, wind speed, and sunshine data in a specific formula that is highly correlated with gas demand.

Since 2018, the World Climate Service has produced forecasts of the UK’s Composite Weather Variable (CWV), and several major UK gas industry participants now rely on this WCS product.

Daily Updates for UK Gas Demand

World Climate Service CWV forecasts are updated daily for the next 14 days, and we also deliver sub-seasonal CWV forecasts based on CFSv2 (daily) updates and ECMWF (bi-weekly) updates. Forecasts are made for 13 Local Distribution Zone (LDZ) areas and for a demand-weighted national index. Data is delivered via API, secure FTP, and email methods, and a graphical interface provides visual access to the forecasts.

Forecast Performance

The figures below summarize the performance of the CWV forecasts since July 2018. First, the correlation of the daily forecasts with observed values drops below 0.6 at a lead time of 10 days; beyond this, the forecasts explain less than a third of the daily variance, although there is some skill on a daily basis all the way out to nearly 30 days in the future. The red curve shows the performance of the daily-updated medium-range forecast, and the blue line pertains to the bi-weekly extended ECMWF forecast out to 45 days.

The second chart – see below – shows the performance of probability forecasts for weekly-average CWV values. The World Climate Service emphasizes probability information because of its great value for decision-making (e.g. see previous discussion here), and therefore the probability format is a critical component of the CWV product. Performance is measured here by “fraction correct”, which indicates the fraction of the time that the probability forecast is on the right side of normal; in other words, if the probability is 51% that the weekly-average CWV will be above normal, then this is “correct” if the CWV does turn out to be above normal.

The blue columns in this chart show results for all of the bi-weekly probability forecasts issued since July 2018, and the fraction correct declines from about 91% in the first week to about 59% in week 3; and by week 4 the forecasts are only marginally better than random chance.

However, better results are obtained for the subset of forecasts that have an enhanced probability signal: the green columns show the skill for the 25% of forecasts with the greatest confidence (highest probability) at each lead time. Week 3 shows a particularly significant improvement – higher confidence boosts the fraction correct from 59% to 70%, which more than doubles the excess over random chance.

Use Probability Forecasts For Success

The probability performance results shown above demonstrate that World Climate Service forecasts provide significant and valuable skill beyond the traditional two-week barrier for deterministic predictability. Users of the CWV probability forecasts, for example, were able to anticipate departures from normal in week 3 with a 70% success rate when using only the forecasts that showed a relatively high degree of confidence (as opposed to the more common low-confidence forecasts). For another example of good performance in probability forecasts, see this recent discussion:

Upgraded UK Gas Demand Index

As of October 1, 2020, the UK’s Composite Weather Variable was upgraded to a new version that includes a better representation of weather impacts in each part of the nation’s gas transmission network. With a refined CWV index and continued improvement in long-lead weather forecasts, the World Climate Service CWV product is more valuable than ever for gas distribution companies, gas retailers, and other market participants. Sign up for a trial of the CWV service today!