How much does industry pay for electricity? Where did European gas come from in 2022? How many power stations does Europe have? What are the most congested transport lines? How quickly is wind and solar energy added to the system?
It is not easy to find a clear answer to these questions, on the one hand because some public statistics remain inaccessible or difficult to use, and on the other hand because simpler and more recent data are only available in trade. This is particularly true for energy and emissions prices, but also for data relating to the demand of certain consumer groups or regional production.
No problem, you might think. This has always been the case and the availability of public data has even improved in recent years. But that’s a problem.
The energy transformation needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 will be massive. Transport, heating and industry must be converted very quickly to emission-free energy sources. Identifying the right combination of solutions is controversial. Should electricity consumers move to where the wind turbines are, wind turbines where the consumption is, or should the electricity be transported? How should the costs be distributed among the different consumers?
These are not only technical and economic questions, but also and above all political questions. The availability of reliable and consistent data therefore represents a fundamental basis for supporting major policy choices in the energy field. Without quality data, Europe’s energy transition will be more difficult to achieve.
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The problem is not so much that public authorities, companies, research institutes and associations do not provide data, but that they produce an incoherent patchwork of data points which are only partially documented, that they upload in their own formats and on their own platforms. This creates unnecessarily high barriers to entry for meaningful discussion of energy policy measures; which means that many stakeholders cannot participate.
Very commendable initiatives by universities, non-governmental organizations and associations have reduced the barriers to accessing data in certain areas, sometimes through very impressive online tools. But this is only one step towards a public knowledge infrastructure providing consistent and relevant energy data.
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