Smarter Household Energy Data: infrastructure for policy and planning

This ESRC bid, made in response to the ESRC/NRF International Centre Partnerships in 2015, outlined a proposal to work with South Africa's DataFirst on big data infrastructure.

This 18-month project aims to strengthen data expertise and research partnerships between South Africa and the UK, though the formation of a new network created to investigate access to, and the use of, household energy data for policymaking and planning.

The work planned focuses on data infrastructure and brings together data professionals, energy researchers and policymakers in SA and the UK. It includes both knowledge exchange events and limited capacity building that help us to better understand data needs for answering key research and policy questions, and optimal methods and protocols for governance, storage of, and access to, these data.

Teams will work across the network to address key policy challenges through shared scoping, planning and analysis of UK and South African household energy data. Substantive cases from South Africa highlight some of the challenges faced both by the shortage of data that is needed to provide evidence for evaluation and impact monitoring of, for example, consumption, fuel poverty and demand reduction, but also the lack of systems and tools to extract and present intelligence from data.

The work connects centres of expertise to further progress in areas where there is less capacity than is required for progressing the next generation of data infrastructures, and in turn, foster new research agendas. 

The project further aims to contribute to the development of an internationally-networked cohort of experts charged with the brokering of, and access to, new and novel forms of data who have the skills to work globally. To meet this aim, the project will co-design and implement a joint UK-SA workshop programme focused on data management and sharing in the social sciences, aimed at researchers that contribute to the global data science educational programme being developed under the wing of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). The theme of household energy data will provide an excellent exemplar for the training.

For the UK Data Service, a key aim is to develop and test infrastructure for 'big data' with household energy data as a limited yet realistic use case.


The team are interested in making contact with researchers already using household energy data who may wish to contribute to the development of tools. Please contact Louise Corti.

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Principle Investigator: Louise Corti, UK Data Service

Co-investigator: Martin Wittenberg, Data First, Cape Town

Collaborators:  the Center for Environmental Epidemiology, DECC and the STFC UK Energy Research Centre 

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the National Research Foundation, South Africa 

Dates: October 2015 - August 2017

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