Real-time energy data open to all

The Electricity Map, in addition to country-by-country information, also provides data on wind and solar potential in real-time. [Shutterstock]

Electricity suppliers are increasingly using real-time data to visualise Europe’s energy grid in order to carry out their day-to-day work and it is information that is open to everyone. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel provides an overview.

A new tool known as the Electricity Map provides real-time data, free to all, about European energy use and CO2 emissions. It is provided by start-up company Tomorrow, which was set up by Danish-French computer expert Olivier Corradi.

The map has been online since September and comes in the wake of five months of development. Corradi pursued the idea out of pure curiosity initially, while working at an IT start-up that dealt with artificial intelligence.

But the question of how to transition Europe’s carbon-heavy energy needs towards renewable sources interested him more. He told Der Tagesspiegel that he quit his job quite recently as a result.

In the meantime, he has assembled a small team of energy and IT experts with whom he wants to meet his goals.

Visualisation of wind potential today (10 January).

Visualisation of wind potential today (10 January). [Electricity Map/ Tomorrow]

One of the team members is Thierry Ollivero, who said that most people access the tool, are impressed with it and often return. “But some use the visualisation in their arguments,” he added.

Nuclear energy advocates use data from windless winter days to argue that Germany should maintain its reliance on atomic energy. Similarly, wind and solar proponents use good days for clean energy, when the clouds have cleared and the wind blows, to support the energy transition.

But Corradi insists that the tool is merely intended to “show things as they are”.

Data for the map is currently provided by the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) but it is often supplemented by other information, for example, from French network operator RTE.

Visualisation of solar potential today (10 January).

Visualisation of solar potential today (10 January). [Electricity Map/ Tomorrow]

The Electricity Map then uses a conversion formula provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in order to grade a country’s CO2 emissions, using a sliding scale from green to black.

Norway and France top their list of emitters currently due to their reliance on hydropower and nuclear energy, respectively. Poland is firmly in the black because nearly 100% of energy is produced from coal-fired power plants and other carbon-heavy sources.

The map also takes into account imports and exports between companies and provides a visualisation for solar and wind potential.

The developers have made the tool open-source software so that anyone can access and improve it as they see fit. Corradi said that this approach has “worked well”.

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ENTSO-E, a network of 42 transmission system operators (TSOs), has been online since 2008 with the stated aim of promoting “closer cooperation across Europe’s TSOs to support the implementation of EU energy policy and achieve Europe’s energy & climate policy objectives, which are changing the very nature of the power system.”

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