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Portuguese researcher finalist of the European Sustainable Energy Awards

24th August 2022


"Sophisticated mathematical methods are essential to build the energy systems of the future", said Carla Silva Gonçalves, stressing that "although renewable energies, like wind or solar, have many benefits, there are challenges that we must overcome, mainly due to the dependence on atmospheric variables". In this sense, "forecasting is important to ensure the balance between the production and consumption of electricity, considering the high levels of integration of renewable energy in the power grid", she added.

This is the starting point of the research work that Carla Silva Gonçalves develops at INESC TEC, contributing to the energy transition and digitalisation of the European electricity system. In particular, the researcher developed mathematical models to support decision-making in electrical systems with a strong influence of renewable energy sources. The purpose of these methods is to reduce forecasting errors in the face of meteorological variability, which significantly affects production from renewable energies.

In addition to meteorological variability, there is another challenge: the sharing of (essentially confidential) data between the different actors in the electricity system and the associated benefits to a more optimised management of renewable-based power plants. In this sense - and considering that predictability improves as the amount of data shared increases -, Carla Silva Gonçalves proposed a "collaborative forecasting" model, and developed a data market mechanism that combines data and encourages monetisation.

"I have collaborated with several companies and institutes in developing forecasting models that are or will be integrated into digital tools to support decision-making, in order to increase the share of renewable energy sources and reduce energy waste", Carla explained.

"What Carla has developed is quite original; moreover, she published the results in academic journals and also submitted a European patent application", stated her former PhD supervisor, Ricardo Bessa, coordinator of INESC TEC's Centre for Power and Energy Systems. "Carla is exploring two new concepts: one of them is collaborative forecasting, considering data privacy, and the other is the creation of a market mechanism that allows companies to buy and sell this data", explained Ricardo Bessa.

The research led to a patent, five papers in specialised journals and six at international conferences. "I hope to continue to use mathematics to improve the predictability of renewable energy, and to contribute to European climate and energy goals", concluded Carla.

Promoted by the European Commission, the European Sustainable Energy Awards acknowledged people and projects that stand out for innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy. There are four categories: Innovation, Local Energy Action, Women in Energy and Young Energy Trailblazer. The latter, in which Carla is running, aims to award people under 35 who carry out prominent activities in energy transition in Europe. The finalists were chosen by a top-level jury from a list of the most successful projects and actions for clean, safe, and efficient energy. In addition to the Portuguese researcher, French Marie Jeanmougin and Romanian Timea Farkas compete in the same category.

The winners will now be decided via online public votes, open until September 18.