Smarter Household Energy Data: infrastructure for policy and planning

This project ran from 2015-17 and was funded under the ESRC/NRF International Centre Partnership. The UK Data Service worked with South Africa's DataFirst on knowledge transfer on big data infrastructure - across data, technical and capacity building angles.

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

The work focused on data infrastructure and brought together data professionals, energy researchers and policymakers in SA and the UK. It made use of knowledge exchange and capacity building events that helped us to better understand data needs for answering key research and policy questions, as well as agreeing on optimal methods and protocols for governance, storage of, and access to, these data.

Teams worked 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 the UK focused on how smart meter data could be harmessed to address end user demand and fuel poverty. Case studies in South Africa highlighted 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 connected 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. For the UK Data Service, a key aim was also to develop and test infrastructure for 'big data' with household energy data as a limited yet realistic use case.

The project further aimed 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 designed a joint UK-SA five day summer school programme that focused on data management and sharing in the social sciences, aimed at researchers. The theme of household energy data provided an excellent exemplar for the training. The summer school built on the global data science educational programme developed under the wing of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). 

Outputs

The project maintained an active blog through its course.

Case studies:

Summer schools:

  • 'Enouncouters with Big Data: An introduction to using big data in the social sciences' 5-days, Cape Town and Colchester 2017

Researcher workshops:

Data and technical:

OUR CONTRIBUTION

Principal Investigator: Louise Corti, UK Data Service

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

Collaborators:  UCL Energy Institute, DECC, UCT Energy Reseach Centre , UCT WITS Rural Facility

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

Dates: October 2015 - August 2017

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