What do IBM Research-Africa and Accra Metropolitan Assembly have in common with Kenya Power and UN-Habitat? Answer: they’re all Open Energy Data stakeholders that have contributed to recent Open Energy Data assessments in Nairobi and Accra, two rapidly growing cities.
Cities are home to half of the world’s population, and are responsible for more than two-thirds of global energy use. By 2050, the population living in cities is expected to reach nearly 70 percent, and energy consumption and related carbon emissions are expected to rise accordingly. As a result of these realities, securing access to reliable and affordable electricity in the biggest and fastest-growing cities is an important cornerstone of a sustainable future.
Energy efficiency – using less energy input to deliver the same level of service – has been described by many as the ‘first fuel’ of our societies. However, lack of adequate data to accurately predict and measure energy efficiency savings, particularly at the city level, has limited the realization of its promise over the past two decades.
Why Open Energy Data?
Open Data can be a powerful tool to reduce information asymmetry in markets, increase transparency and help achieve local economic development goals. Several sectors like transport, public sector management and agriculture have started to benefit from Open Data practices. Energy markets are often characterized by less-than-optimal conditions with high system inefficiencies, misaligned incentives and low levels of transparency. As such, the sector has a lot to potentially gain from embracing Open Data principles.
The United States is a leader in this field with its ‘Energy Data’ initiative. This initiative makes data easy to find, understand and apply, helping to fuel a clean energy economy. For example, the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) open application programming interface (API) has more than 1.2 million time series of data and is frequently visited by users from the private sector, civil society and media. In addition, the Green Button initiative is empowering American citizens to have access to their own energy usage data, and OpenEI.org is an Open Energy Information platform to help people find energy information, share their knowledge and connect to other energy stakeholders.
Introducing the Open Energy Data Assessment
To address this data gap in emerging and developing countries, the World Bank is conducting a series of Open Energy Data Assessments in urban areas. The objective is to identify important energy-related data, raise awareness of the benefits of Open Data principles and improve the flow of data between traditional energy stakeholders and others interested in the sector.
The first cities we assessed were Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya. Both are among the fastest-growing cities in the world, with dynamic entrepreneurial and technology sectors, and both are capitals of countries with an ongoing National Open Data Initiative., The two cities have also been selected to be part of the Negawatt Challenge, a World Bank international competition supporting technology innovation to solve local energy challenges.
The ecosystem approach
The starting point for the exercise was to consider the urban energy sector as an ecosystem, comprised of data suppliers, data users, key datasets, a legal framework, funding mechanisms, and ICT infrastructure. The methodology that we used adapted the established World Bank Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA), which highlights valuable connections between data suppliers and data demand. The assessment showcases how to match pressing urban challenges with the opportunity to release and use data to address them, creating a longer-term commitment to the process. Mobilizing key stakeholders to provide quick, tangible results is also key to this approach.
How can Open Energy Data help Nairobi and Accra?
For the past seven years, Ghana has been struggling with significant energy sector challenges, plaguing its capital with scheduled daily blackouts of up to 24 hours, as well as rising electricity prices.
Citizens in Accra constantly lament the lack of access to information about timing and geographical coverage of these blackouts as a serious impediment to well-being. To address this problem and increase public awareness of potential solutions, the Ghana Energy Commission decided to build a database to capture information around energy expansion plans in Ghana. This database will provide all energy stakeholders with a reliable baseline on energy production, transmission and distribution.