Access to energy-related data is essential to an efficient and equitable transition to clean energy. However, the International Energy Agency, one of the world’s largest repositories of scientific, economic, and logistical data, still keeps much of this critical information behind a paywall. Anyone who currently wants access to this energy data has to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to access one dataset. This serves as an unnecessary barrier and makes research and scientific inquiry more expensive. The IEA is funded largely by OECD governments, public contributions that should earn public access to the essential data and analysis.
Now, an effort is underway to make IEA data free and openly accessible.
The IEA’s high costs are a barrier to access high-quality, impartial, and comprehensive energy data for many researchers, students, and non-governmental organizations.
Our World In Data launched a campaign to unlock IEA’s data in an article and letter in Nature. Members of the Open Modeling community (including myself) wrote an open letter to IEA urging them to open data access to all. Now we are asking organizations, academics, modelers, and researchers that might use IEA data to provide their support in a joint open letter to the IEA and U.S. delegates.
We ask your organization to review the letter and consider co-signing by February 16th. After that time the letter will be sent to the IEA and the U.S. delegate to the IEA Secretary of Energy Granholm and will be posted publicly.
A spokesperson for the IEA recently responded, “the bulk of these sales are to private energy companies, financial institutions, and consultancies.” Contrary to what is implied by this statement, it is an indication of the problem with keeping data private — that businesses can afford to purchase the data but individuals, research institutions, and non-governmental organizations that help to shape policy cannot.
- Open data can provide a wide range of benefits, including:
- Access to data for some of the most common questions, such as annual GHG emissions or renewables production, consumption, and waste;
- Equitable access to data for disadvantaged individuals that cannot afford access;
- Faster response to important problems by eliminating the need for grant funded researchers to wait months for funding approval;
- Reduce barriers for researchers to move beyond a US-only perspective that is partially driven by open access to US Energy Information Administration data; and
- Potential to reduce the overall cost to governments by reducing the need to purchase data for specific research projects. Although the National Science Foundation doesn’t break out data purchase fees, in 2019 $136M was spent just on software for research — two orders of magnitude higher than the IEA data revenue.