RELEASE: Breakthrough Institute, Open Data Advocates Send Letter to International Energy Agency Urging Free and Open Access to Data

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.

Berkeley, Calif. Today, the Breakthrough Institute, joined by 63 organizations and open data advocates, sent a letter to the International Energy Agency (IEA), along with the U.S. delegate to the IEA Secretary of Energy Granholm, urging them to make their data open and freely accessible to all. The IEA is one of the world’s largest repositories of scientific, economic, and logistical data. Unlike other organizations, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the IEA keeps their data behind a paywall.

Signers include Carnegie Mellon University Graduate Student Assembly, Clean Energy Buyers Association, Catalyst Cooperative, Energy for Growth, Fastest Path to Zero, Good Energy Collective, Nuclear Energy Institute, Nuclear Innovation Alliance, R Street, and Third Way. A complete list is included in the letter.

Our World In Data originally launched a campaign to unlock IEA’s data in an article and letter in Nature. Members of the Open Modeling community also wrote an open letter to IEA urging them to open data access to all. The letter asked 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.

“Open access to high quality and comprehensive energy-related data is essential to an efficient and equitable transition to clean energy while also enabling rapid response to global crises,” said Dr. Adam Stein, Associate Director, Nuclear Innovation at the Breakthrough Institute and member of the Open Modeling community. “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.

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.

Click here to read the whole letter.