CLARA: Climate Services Designed to Benefit End Users

  • Climate services provide information that companies and administrations can leverage for better decision-making
  • The CLARA project strives to improve climate services by the integration of end users into the co-development
  • The involvement of public and private stakeholders in addition enables yet another interface for interaction of actors from both sectors

Climate services for better decision-making

A climate service is defined as the offering, management or transformation of climate information that is of application to improved decision-making for institutions, companies, facilities or organizations whose decisions are in some way dependent on climate circumstances. Climate services are applicable to fields such as renewable energy, water management, agriculture, health and air quality and disaster risk reduction, among others.

A specific example of the application of climate services, for instance, takes place in the management of small hydroelectric plants without a water reservoir, that generate energy only off the current of a river: such facilities need to take the decision regarding when to activate the turbines based on the available information regarding present and future river flow. Taking such climate-related decisions in the most informed way possible leads to decreased uncertainty and, in turn, enhanced management outcomes.

Renewable energies, such as hydropower, are among the areas that can benefit from better climate services.
Renewable energies, such as hydropower, are among the areas that can benefit from better climate services.

Bridging the gap between university laboratories and the final users is emerging as a reliable way to work in the right direction to ensure the efficacy of the technologies that are developed. Striving for a more efficient management of water and energy resources, in the Climate Forecast Enabled Knowledge Services (CLARA) project, the Department of Agronomy of the University of Córdoba (DAUCO) involves users in the development of climate services.

The CLARA project involves users in the development of climate services

The CLARA project works along those lines, evaluating how the integration of end users into the co-development of climate services enhances their quality. In short, the aim is to engage “customers” in all the phases of the process: from the initial idea to the final design of the product that will reach their hands.

Through CLARA, 11 institutions from 5 European countries are working on cooperative designs with users of seasonal climate services (with 6-month weather forecasts) in the Water and Energy sectors. The methodology involves selecting a series of case studies on climate services for different types of users: agricultural water optimisation, the hydroelectric generation or flood risk management sectors, among others.

The team at the University of Cordoba headed by Professor of Hydraulic Engineering María José Polo, oversees three of these pilot cases. At the UCO the Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrology Group, led by Professor Polo, is studying climate services for managers of reservoirs, hydroelectric generation at mini-power stations (in mountain areas, dependent on snow conditions), and the management and optimisation of the design of photovoltaic power plants (Physics and Renewable Energy Group, directed by Professor Rafael López Luque).

The CLARA project team at DAUCO, of the Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrology Group
The CLARA project team at DAUCO, of the Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrology Group

The research team at DAUCO is also responsible for the Work Package 2 (WP2), charged with engaging users in the co-development of services, seeking a final product able to generate a much higher demand among those stakeholders.

An interface between the public and private sectors

The researchers have created user forums in which the different stakeholders can participate so that their services meet the needs of these users and their expectations in terms of usability and value. These stakeholders encompass private sector companies (such as Endesa, and small photovoltaic energy firms), officials and representatives of the public administration, professionals managing climate services in different countries or irrigation community staff.

Climate services bridge the gap between large-scale atmospheric models and the specific information that the users need. In a translational work, it converts global-scale data to more specific, local information that is of interest to those who manage water and energy resources on a day-to-day basis. To do this, the seasonal forecasts generated by Europe’s Copernicus climate data management programme are used, transforming it into useful indicators for decision-making.

Following the user forums held in Sweden and Córdoba, a final meeting was planned in Venice. The UCO’s services advanced steadily, with work being done also on the design of an attractive, user-friendly interface. The services are under constant testing by users involved in part of the process; in the case of mini-hydroelectric plants, for instance, this is Endesa Generación. With the services yet on the market, the aim is to create a more user-friendly and efficient scenario for public and private managers of entities working together in the area of water and energy resources.

Image credits:

Hydropower plant picture is in the public domain and was edited and downloaded from Pixabay.

Group photograph kindly provided by DAUCO, and used with permission.