Unveiling the Power of Open Energy Data in Switzerland: Learnings from the Energy Data SummitOn 15.01.2024 by Adriana Marcucci, Rebecca Lordan-Perret, Christian Schaffner, Matthias Eifert
Adriana, Rebecca, and Christian all work at the Energy Science Centre, ETH Zurich. Adriana is in charge of the SWEET-CROSS activity, focusing on the coordination of data and scenarios in the SWEET programme. Rebecca is the outreach manager and Christian is the executive director of the center. Matthias is a scientist at Hochschule Luzern, where he focuses on open energy innovation and collaboration.
The Energy Data Summit, held during Energy Week @ ETH 2023, participants discussed the pivotal role of open energy data in Switzerland’s energy transition. Our blog discusses the key takeaways of the summit, including the significance of energy data, the current status of open energy data in Switzerland, and the existing challenges and potential solutions. Enjoy!
Data came into focus at the first Energy Data Summit, co-hosted with the Energy Data Hackdays, with participants from industry, academia, and the government. During the event, discussions highlighted the importance of data in the Swiss energy transition, the current status of open energy data in Switzerland, existing challenges and possible next steps to overcome them. We summarize here the most important takeaways of the Energy Data Summit. Enjoy!
What exactly do we mean with open energy data?
Energy data refers to statistics, measurements, and any other information related to various aspects of energy production and consumption. Open energy data refers to energy data that is openly available and accessible to the public, typically provided in a structured and machine-readable format. Examples of energy data can include: consumption data; electricity production and trade volumes; industrial and residential heating demand;; vehicle driving patterns; solar, wind, and other resource potentials; and energy market data, like prices, investment costs, and subsidies.
Why do we need data for the Swiss energy transition?
First, data increases the understanding of energy production and consumption patterns, offering insights for both operating and planning energy system development. Real-time consumption data allows energy suppliers to understand and forecast electricity demand and, therefore, improve the efficiency of their operations. Data is also a game changer for cantons, municipalities, and utilities by enabling them to make informed and context-appropriate energy infrastructure investment decisions. For example, the local energy provider in Höfe has real-time smart meter data from all their consumers and uses it to decide on infrastructure development, taking decisions based on observed trends — like the use of electric cars and heat pump installations. According to Arne Kähler, the CEO of EW Höfe, “Without data, we will hardly be able to meet the challenge of the future in the energy sector.”
Second, data accessibility fosters competition and comparison among consumers, be it households, municipalities, or cantons. As Philipp Schütz, professor at HSLU, points out, “A big driver for implementation could be […] social competition—am I doing better or worse than my neighbor?” For instance, households equipped with smart meters can easily track and compare their energy usage patterns, which could lead to a desire to outperform or at least align with the practices of their neighbors. On a broader scale, municipalities and cantons can leverage the availability of aggregated energy data to benchmark their performance against neighboring regions. This kind of comparative analysis provides valuable insights into best practices and areas for improvement in energy management and production.
Finally, real-world data supports different research activities focused on the design of future energy systems and markets. For example, one of the topics highly debated at the Summit is the idea of influencing consumption patterns based on the availability of solar power, using dynamic electricity tariffs. Academic research could help understand the possibilities and impacts of tariff design options, but only if hourly electricity consumption data is available.
In summary, data reveals trends and ensures transparency; both in turn lead to knowledge that helps inform decision making and drive innovation.
What is the status of open energy data in Switzerland?
The different actors of the energy sector in Switzerland – industry, academia, and the federal, cantonal and municipal governments, – are slowly moving towards open energy data. However, several barriers remain to obtaining complete and reliable data.
The most significant challenge is the fact that energy data of public interest is often not publicly available and sharing it is challenging due to lack of know-how and standards, data protection issues, and a general lack of incentives. Matthias Galus, Head Geoinformation & Digital Innovation from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), shed some light on why this might be: “We don’t have any explicit requirements or regulatory framework enforcing open energy data as to who should publish what. Also, there are no incentives for energy companies or network operators. […] Then, data protection comes in as a handy argument not to share data, without making any effort to analyze what’s actually possible.”
The second challenge is that, “data is available, but data exchange doesn’t work so well, if at all”, as highlighted by Nicolas Lanz, head of Energy Supply in Canton Bern, and multiple other summit participants. Even when data is available, the sharing process is often inefficient and poorly organized, which implies significant efforts for the data providers. Moverer, the data itself is of inconsistent quality, resulting in high processing efforts for people using the data.
Benchmarking Switzerland against its European counterparts also highlights a notable gap in data availability and accessibility. Discussions at the summit pointed to two main factors contributing to this disparity: Switzerland has so many actors that coordination can be a challenge —there are more than 600 electricity utilities alone, all of whom lack incentives and/or mandates for data sharing. In contrast, the EU has long-standing regulations and requirements for data sharing, many stemming from their electricity market liberalization.
While still not advanced in data sharing, Switzerland has also made important progress. Here are a few examples:
- The federal administration, cantons, and municipalities are actively sharing data, for example on opendata.swiss or using their own platforms, like in Canton Bern’s energy platform. Other relevant data sources are the Building and Housing Register from the Federal office of Statistics, with information about all existing buildings and their heating type; ElCom electricity tariffs; and the SFOE’s Energy Dashboard monitoring real-time energy market data.
- Several companies are sharing data, among them: Swissgrid provides an energy overview; CKW provides smart meter data; and TNC consulting provides Swiss Energy-Charts and publishes electricity market data.
- In academia, Swiss universities have embraced the Swiss National Open Research Data Strategy, advocating for the openness of all research produced data. Researchers are publishing data on different platforms such as zenodo, Yareta from the University of Geneva, ETH Research Collection, envidat or CROSSDat, a platform with energy research data developed as a part of the SWEET funding program from the SFOE.
How can we move towards open energy data in Switzerland?
Figure 1: Our new year resolutions on open data in Switzerland. Designed by Freepik
The wish list for open energy data in Switzerland varies depending on who you ask (Figure 1). However, we can boil this down into 4 key recommendations:
We need to start by sharing the existing data—this needs to happen pronto. A vital aspect of this endeavor is establishing data standards. Florin Hasler from Opendata.ch emphasized: “Data standards increase interoperability and improve data quality. This leads to a higher efficiency of data sharing and a reduction in the associated costs.”
We need a process educating both energy providers and consumers on how to leverage smart meter data. While the Swiss government has focused on the rollout of smart meters, targeting 80% coverage by 2027, increasing awareness of the benefits and possibilities enabled by smart meter data will help ensure that the data is used effectively.
Let’s broaden our scope beyond electricity. Open data across all energy sectors — including heating, industry, and transport —will help us understand and implement comprehensive pathways towards achieving carbon neutrality.
Building robust governance frameworks is indispensable for navigating the complexities of a digitized energy sector. Clarity on responsibilities and how data is used is paramount to fostering trust in data sharing. However, “the legal framework is the one thing, but then it’s often also the culture [among all stakeholders] that has to change”, said Cornelia Kawan, from ElCom.
The recipe for open energy data in Switzerland involves these four crucial ingredients in addition to a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation in Switzerland’s energy landscape.
Impressions of the Energy Data Summit
Cover image : Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik
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Adriana Marcucci, Matthias Eifert, Rebecca Lordan-Perret and Christian Schaffner “Unveiling the Power of open Energy Data in Switzerland”, Energy Blog @ ETH Zurich, ETH Zurich, January 15, 2024, https://blogs.ethz.ch/energy/open_energy_data