Energy transition core focus at The Hague Data Camp

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
© Sjoerd van der Hucht Fotografie
How many solar panels are there in a residential district and what is their output? What types of residents opt for solar power as a source of energy? These are important questions for municipal and provincial authorities in defining their energy policies. They were discussed during a two-day data camp held on 11-12 February of this year. Data scientists and researchers went looking for new insights into the advancing energy transition.

Use data more often and on a wider scale

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) organised this data camp together with the municipality of The Hague in the context of their cooperation within the CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague. Among the data camp participants were representatives from the municipalities of Utrecht, Vlaardingen and The Hague, the Zuid-Holland provincial government and CBS. The Hague’s alderwoman for Sustainability and Energy Transition Liesbeth van Tongeren comments: ‘This event fits in well with the city’s efforts to adopt a more data-driven approach. We aim to make more extensive use of data to underpin and implement our policies and our measures, as this can lead to improved insights, more effective measures and cost savings.’

van Tongeren

Getting started with microdata

CBS statistical researcher Lona Verkooijen was there to provide the right types of data to the participating researchers and to act as chairwoman of the data camp. ‘We made available - under very specific conditions - relevant CBS microdata on the average gas and electricity consumption levels for the entire province of Zuid-Holland and city of Utrecht; in addition, CBS made available data on solar panels as well as local housing characteristics and income levels.’ CBS microdata are generally only available to researchers under strict conditions. ‘These data always remain within the secure CBS environment. Before they’re allowed to work with such data, researchers have to sign a confidentiality agreement in advance, among other things. They did so before the start of the data camp. For the purpose of defining the research questions, a brainstorming session took place prior to the data camp between the teams Energy transition, Housing and Research of The Hague municipality.’

Hitting the spot

Participant Ling-Po Shih is a data scientist at Utrecht’s municipal research department. He found the data camp truly hit the spot: ‘My colleague and I are part of a data brigade within the municipal government. This is a group consisting of data scientists, domain specialists and a few colleagues from the information department who together clarify questions on energy transition, initiatives towards sustainability in the housing sector and a cleaner city.’ Shih recently zoomed in on the topic of energy poverty. ‘This means households are spending more than 10 percent of their net disposable income on energy bills. We discovered only limited amounts of data were available in-house to do research on this topic. Then I found out about the data camp by chance.’ Shih believes it is a great concept: ‘By zooming in, you will get maximum results over a short period of time. You will also find that local issues for our municipality have a great deal in common with those in The Hague, for instance.’

© Sjoerd van der Hucht Fotografie

New insights

The data camp has yielded a lot of new insights for Shih and his co-worker. ‘With some effort, we had managed to gather municipal data, but the datasets from CBS provided a comprehensive picture. We’re now able to create a forecasting model on energy consumption per household.’ The next step is extending the authorisation for access to CBS microdata. Shih explains: ‘This will allow us to conduct analyses in the area of energy transition for the municipality of Utrecht. Our objective is to compile a top 5 or top 10 of districts in Utrecht where 40,000 houses can be disconnected from the gas grid.’

Scanning roofs

The results of the data camp were presented during a joint meeting of the municipality of The Hague and Zuid-Holland provincial government on 21 February. Alderwoman Van Tongeren says: ‘The data camp has provided insights into the location of solar panels around the city and how common they are among specific types of residents. These insights can be of benefit in our upcoming project ‘Dakenjacht’ [a city-wide project to promote sustainable roof solutions including solar panels, tr.]. The alderwoman adds local authorities now have a clearer picture of the share of residential buildings on which solar panels are mounted in each district as well as the total output capacity of these panels. ‘This means we’ll know more about the amount of sustainable energy that is being produced by solar panels and the remaining potential capacity. Aside from this, the data camp also yielded more data on electricity and gas consumption within the Central Innovation District [the economic heart of The Hague, situated around the main stations, tr.]. This was great input for our district energy network plan.’