With more than 90,000 users pers month, www.reegle.info is quickly establishing itself as a definitive reference source for reliable information on clean energy. Florian Bauer, REEEP’s Operations and IT Director has some specific ideas on how to keep the reegle platform at the cutting edge of clean energy, and these ideas cluster around a concept called Open Data. The term refers to a movement where institutions are making their existing data available via the web in a standardized, machine-readable format and - just as importantly – are opening it for cost-free re-use by third parties.
Taking massive silos of data that already exist - and which in most cases are already in the public domain anyway – and making them available to compare, contrast and to pool, is feeding an explosion of new applications. For example the UK and US governments are making data available at all levels. This has spawned new applications such as wheredoesmymoneygo.org, which depicts graphically how the UK tax revenue from a typical taxpayer is actually spent each day.
International organisations are also joining the open data movement: the World Bank, UNdata and Eurostat, all currently make their data available online.
So, what does any of this have to do with the spread of renewable energy? It offers a way for a mosaic picture to emerge that wasn’t necessarily there before.
The recent upgrade of reegle was designed around both offering data to others (through a specific sub-portal for web developers) and by drawing existing information from many other sources to create country energy profiles. These profiles bring reliable energy statistics together with current policies, regulations and stakeholder contact information, all organised by country. To create the dossiers, reegle automatically sifts through eight different open data sources such as the World Bank, UNdata, OpenEI, the CIA Factbook, and the REEEP Sustainable Energy Regulation Network publications, and threads each country’s data together and presents it in a format that is easy to read and to digest.
“This is a prime example of how linked open data can breathe new usefulness into existing data, and make information about renewable energy and energy efficiency much more accessible and actionable,” says Bauer. reegle’s role as a vanguard in the field has been underlined through Bauer’s involvement in the 2011 Leipzig Semantic Web Days, which spent two days in May focusing on the uses of linked open data for businesses. He is also on the steering committee of the climate change Knowledge Brokers Workshop in Frankfurt on 3-6 June, hosted by the Climate Development & Knowledge Network (CDKN), a UK DFID-sponsored initiative which supports developing countries to deliver climate compatible development.
“This is going to be an important event,” notes Bauer, “as it will bring a lot of the world’s important portal builders in the climate area together in one place, and we’ll be presenting on open data and urging everyone very strongly to integrate open data into their IT infrastructure and approach.”
The reegle platform has also been implementing a CDKN-funded project to develop a climate-compatible development thesaurus, which is now up and running on the website, supporting the reegle glossary. The thesaurus covers the broad fields of climate change mitigation, adaptation, international development, governance and sustainability as well as physical data on climate change, and incorporates about 1700 terms with links to synonyms as well as broader and narrower terms. The glossary it powers will soon be made available as a Wordpress plug-in to feature in blogs.