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Energy Data - let Leeds light the way

Over the last 15 weeks ODI Leeds, partnered with SmartKlub and Leeds City Council, have been working on an ambitious energy data project - to understand how to create the best energy data infrastructure for a UK city. Using Leeds as the focus, the aim is to see the creation of an innovative, centralised platform that makes open sources of energy data easily accessible, both physically and visually. This isn't about being innovate for the sake of it either, we want a platform that will help increase the uptake of energy efficiency and energy generation projects in the city: ones that save carbon, combat air pollution, alleviate fuel poverty while still maintaining a sound business case.

At the beginning of the project we outlined what we wanted to achieve - to better understand the required data and to openly engage with energy stakeholders - therefore it's now time to reflect upon what we've achieved. As the end of the project's first phase coincides with the festive period I shall attempt to refrain from using too many wintery references (I feel that they'd receive a frosty reception). I can't promise anything though...

The Data

One of the key aspects of this project was to increase our knowledge of energy data - to understand exactly what exists, how accessible it is and, more importantly, the areas where the data is lacking. In all honesty this proved to be a bit of a mixed bag; when you go digging for data you can uncover a lot of useful and open datasets but, ultimately, there are not as many as there could and should be.

This was demonstrated in our Energy Funding Mechanism report, which has now been published and is available for you to read. The report itself details three of the main sources of subsidy available for energy efficiency and generation projects - ECO, RHI and FITs - outlining the potential data sources that could help access them. Yule be glad to hear that in addition to publishing the report, we've actually also produced some actual datasets! The department for communities and local government have published EPC certificates, providing information on the energy performance of buildings within England and Wales which are available for use. As a result, we have calculated the Capacity for Improvement on an array of indicators - including energy efficiency, energy consumption and CO2 emissions - for domestic buildings in Leeds. In addition, we've derived the spatial locations of the buildings at ward and LSOA resolutions, meaning the datasets now contain a detailed framework that can be used for better research. Talk about Christmas come early!

Without coming across as scrooge, the one area that is particularly lacking is energy consumption data. Understanding the energy requirements of building is vital when attempting to establish the feasibility of a project. Sitting on data is a pointless exercise - by sharing it and making it open we can create extra value for it.

The Engagement

The successful creation of an innovative energy data platform can only be achieved by engaging with the city's energy stakeholders. It's good to talk, so that's exactly what we did. Although some of the agreed interviews never came to fruition, those that did were highly beneficial; in total we talked to four key organisations - Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the University of Leeds Estates and Social Business Brokers. This is an open data project therefore, with the permission of the interviewees, the conversations have been transcribed and been made available for you to view. Cooperation and innovative collaboration between different actors and sectors within the city are key but cannot happen without proper communication. Hopefully these interviews will represent the start of increased conversations, leading to the uptake of bigger and better energy projects in Leeds.

The Innovation

Seeing as though there were three kings - with three presents - it seemed only right that we produced a third output that was solid gold. No matter the sector, innovation is a vital component, however it's not something that can be plucked out of thin air; to innovate you must first have data to be innovative with. Once we had data, we could produce some fantastic interactive tools to visualise it. For example, using hex maps we've visualised the EPC data at ward level showing the areas of the city where the greatest amount of impact can be achieved. By understanding the current state of the housing stock in Leeds, it can allow organisations to plan their improvement measures appropriately. We have also produced an interactive dashboard for energy consumption data - if you have half-hourly data that you want to visualise then we want to hear from you. The more open data that is available the better.

The future?

I suppose I should probably think about wrapping this up; in just 15 weeks we have achieved loads and have established a fantastic foundation for an energy data platform. It's now vital that we build upon this. As more data presents itself, the greater the opportunities for innovation, leading to bigger and better outputs. By tapping into the fantastic resource of the Leeds Climate Commission - filled with like-minded, driven and passionate individuals - we could see this energy data project snowball.