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Sustainable energy policy demands sustainable open data

April 8, 2013 in Featured, Open Data, WG Sustainability

What kinds of energy are we producing, and what kinds are we consuming? How much comes from renewable sources? What is our energy dependency on other countries? Energy policy is today at the heart of every country’s agenda, but can citizen discuss it fairly? Do even policymakers have enough reliable information to implement new energy transition programs, required to secure energy supplies and achieve CO2 reduction targets?

Europe aims to reach a low carbon economy through transition energy policies. The objective is that by 2050, the EU should cut its emissions to 80% below 1990 levels through domestic reductions alone. The strategy also discusses how the main sectors responsible for Europe’s emissions (i.e power generation, industry, transport, buildings, and agriculture) could make the transition most cost effectively. As part of its energy transition policy, Germany has called to close all its nuclear power plants by 2022. More recently, France launched a national debate on energy policy, with the aim of cutting its carbon emission by a factor of 4 or 5 by 2050, and in the meantime by reducing the share of nuclear in the electricity mix to 50% by 2025.

But how do we get there? As we discuss energy policies, much data is still missing – not only for the general public, but also for policy makers and energy players. To deliver a sustainable energy policy, we need a sustainable and smart open data approach.

Here are some of the data on energy transition that we could start to open:

CO2 microdata

The well known statistician Hans Rosling has launched a call for the release of CO2 microdata. There is at least one source of CO2 microdata in Europe that we could demand openly: the EU Emissions Trading System, which was launched in 2005 to fight climate change, and covers more than 10 000 factories, power stations and other CO2-emitting installations. Despite the fact that this microdata is being collected at an installation level, we only have access to CO2 emissions data per sector or countries – this needs to change.

Market players

Our energy future depends on the market. But what do we know about the energy market and its players? In a recent interview for newspaper Le Monde, Christophe de Margerie, head of the oil group Total, declared: “We need to put all the data on the table: energy demand, and available resources together with their cost, environmental impact and feasibility”. He was right in asking for those data, but he forgot to mention that we also need data about energy players themselves. Which players produce what types of energy in Europe? How much tax do they pay, and in which jurisdictions? How much do they invest in sustainable energy? How much CO2 and others pollutants do they produce? Private energy companies need to release their own data in order to be accountable. Projects like Open Corporates can help us to find datasets on energy private sector but there are still jurisdictions, such as France, where you cannot access corporate data for free.

Risk assessments

As we debate the future of energy, risk assessments on energy sources is key information we need. Once you have data on energy stocks, reserves and economic efficiency, you also need solid, peer-reviewed, scientific data on the risks associated with those energy sources. Debates on Nuclear Energy, Renewable Energy or Shale gas all need risk assessment data.

Smart Grid data

Smart grid technologies promise to better manage production and distribution of electricity through a better use of data. Smart Grid efficiency relies in part on consumer behaviours and third party innovation. This can only be achieved through the release of data captured from the smart grid system directly to consumers (smart disclosure) and anonymously to other stakeholders (open data).

Help us to identify data on energy transition

These are just a few examples, to show the importance of sustainable open data to sustainable energy policy – but there are many more. You can help us to identify them by telling us what kind of data we would need to tackle energy transition and sustainability challenges.


Open Transition Energie

open transition1

As part of the National debate on Energy Policy in France, which is due to end with a new Energy Policy Framework proposal by the end of the year, the French OKF local group launched Open Transition Energy, a simple website to share, explore and visualize open data and other open resources related to energy transition, together with a dedicated group on the French datahub nosdonnees.fr a dedicated group.

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