Weather – Forecast and Fix?

           Energy Markets

Following the weather forecast is something that we all do, whether it’s for a day out, what to wear, or simply what will it be like when we get to our holiday destination. There are many services online offering varying degrees of service, from free to subscription. However, these free services will also give you a fair dose of advertisements while advising you that the forecast you are seeing is the basic, one and for something more up to date, without adverts, a modest subscription is required. For many of us, the basic forecast is adequate, such as the services offered by the BBC or the Meteorological Office (Met Office) directly.

From a commercial point of view, weather trends are as important as many other trends, and the National Grid is constantly monitoring weather forecasts to assess demand for energy. In the UK as we and other countries move more towards renewable energy, we want to know where our energy is coming from. We won’t get much from wind on cold days or solar at night, so a forecast is required to let us know what to expect and what energy source will be available to maintain the supply.

In recent months, the UK has enjoyed the most glorious weather with much sunshine giving solar a massive boost while supporting wind for much of the time. However, there have been periods of wind droughts when wind had not been able to contribute. Therefore, our dependency on gas has been maintained, and although gas is regarded as “readily available” as we move ahead, we shall become ever more dependent on imported gas from places such as the Middle East and perhaps the US. The downside of this is that gas is still a fossil fuel but also sought after around the world as countries try to switch from coal. So, competition to secure supplies continues to increase, and, in time, supplies will be geared up to the more competitive regions, more than likely Asia.

I have always assumed that there is little that one can do to affect the weather and that the forecast, good or bad, is the best that we can hope for. Therefore, it was with some amusement that I recently heard some amazing music which turned out to be Kate Bush’s “Cloud Busting”, recorded in 1985. The video, which like many, seemed like a fantasy world, but then, a few weeks later, I saw a headline in the Financial Times by Peter Campbell that read “VW weather-altering tech causes storm in Mexico”. Could this be a spoof story? It seems not.

VW has a very large plant in Mexico, and once the cars are finished, they are stored outside to await onward distribution. Unfortunately for VW and their cars, the region is susceptible to hail storms, resulting in potentially severe damage to the cars. So, hail cannons have been installed to fire shockwaves into the atmosphere, which, according to the local farming population, has caused the sky to clear, leading to drought. In response to the complaint, the company is installing netting to cover the cars and will only use the cannons under manual control. VW is not alone in this technology as Nissan installed it at their Mississippi plant back in 2005.

With this revelation, I went back to the video. Kate had apparently read a book by Peter Reich about his relationship with his father, Wilhelm Reich, A Book of Dreams, and was moved to write the song and make the video.

Wilhelm Reich was a scientist who had tried to produce a machine that would induce rain. Unfortunately, anyone who used this machine, or something similar, was either seriously injured or became very ill or even died. Consequently, Reich was whizzed off to jail. Around the time of the video, Donald Sutherland happened to be staying in a hotel near Kate, and she apparently knocked on his door and asked him if he’d like to play the part of Reich while she played the role of Peter. Sutherland agreed.

The video shows the two of them pushing and pulling the machine up the hill. Later on, as the men in suits arrive from the Government to take him away, Kate is seen rushing up the hill, firing the machine into the sky, clouds forming overhead and the cloudburst starting as Donald Sutherland is driven away.

So, for those of us who don’t like the forecast and want to fix the weather, there could be another option.

John Hall

John joined Alfa Energy in 2013 as Chairman, where his specific interest is the development of the company’s profile in the areas in which it primarily operates - across the EU and the US. He is Fellow of the Energy Institute, a Member of the Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies, an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, and a Member of the Market Research Society. He began his long career in the industry when he set up John Hall Associates in 1973, a company which merged with Energy Quote in 2009 and currently trades as Energy Quote JHA.