Geographic Information System (GIS) applications for scaling up energy efficiency (Podcast)


Geographic Information Systems or Geographic Information Science (GIS) has the potential to be more and more used in energy planning processes. From studies on energy access to grid analytics, researchers and practitioners in the field of sustainable energy have started to recognise to potential of this system. Nevertheless, energy efficiency studies and applications are not as present and, consequently, GIS remains still an abstract concept. However, the deployment of GIS for energy efficiency encompasses multiple sectors, from buildings to street lights to transport and district energy. During this podcast, some examples on how to apply GIS to case studies related energy efficiency are introduced. Starting off with a brief explanation on what is GIS and how it works, the audience will listen to some examples on the potential of GIS in the energy efficiency world.

First, to provide an example of a detailed study and of an online application of GIS, the podcast explains how satellite data and administrative data created datasets that explore electrification and energy access (both current and potential) in countries of the Global South.

Moving on with energy efficiency deployments of GIS, the following case study comes from the US and looks at how comparable scoring systems on the energy consumption of houses build upon GIS applications and are used by government agencies. Subsequently, an example of using GIS to evaluate energy efficiency projects is detailed. Lastly, the conversation looks into GIS potential for efficient public lighting in cities.

With this podcast, the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency hopes that the audience will get a glance of what is GIS and why it is a tool with relevance and potential for scaling up energy efficiency across sectors.

Key message:

Few investigated the application of spatial analysis with GIS for energy efficiency. This podcast explores relevant implementation cases and potential.


[00:00:04.180] – Aristeidis Tsakiris
Hello and welcome to the podcast series scaling up energy efficiency. This is episode three and today’s topic is geographic information system applications for scaling up energy efficiency. We are podcasting from Copenhagen the city that aims to increase the percentage of commuters who cycled to work or education from 42 percent in 2017 to 50 percent by 2025. My name is Aristeides and I work as a program officer at the Copenhagen Center on energy efficiency a part of the UNEP DTU Partnership. So without further ado here’s your host Susana Paardekoope project associate who will moderate today’s podcast.

[00:00:52.020] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
Good afternoon. Welcome to the scaling up energy efficiency podcast series. My name is Susana Paardekoope and I’m project associate at the Copenhagen centre on energy efficiency. In this podcast series we’re discussing different topics in the field of energy efficiency and with a particular focus on how we can bring scale to these energy efficiency efforts. Today we’re having a conversation with our guest Valeria Zambianchi who is going to talk to us about using geographic information systems to scale up energy efficiency. So Valeria is currently on a leave of absence to do some other research activities but she’s a research assistant here at the UNEP DTU Partnership and has been for the past two years most of our research is focused on best practices in energy efficiency in cities and particularly the role of South American cities for implementing energy efficient actions. She graduated from Copenhagen University with an MSc in global development and a concentration particularly on environmental governance. So we’re very happy to be able to have her here and talk about this since I know that it’s a field when we talk about GIS and geographic information systems that people sometimes perceived to be very technical but actually it has a potential to be really exciting and I think that we can use it to show the potentials of energy efficiency at a larger scale and in a much more interactive way. So thank you for being your first thing.

[00:02:13.170] – Valeria Zambianchi
Hello Suzanne. Hello everybody. So first of all thank you very much for this opportunity and also for paying attention to GIS as I mention is a very exciting tool and I think for energy efficiency enthusiastic people it’s it would be a very interesting conversation to hear. And lastly I really would like to thank you for your time for the audience to this and to our conversation so to start off as you mention GIS or geographic information systems Sang says is something very technical and out of reach for most of people but is actually something quite straightforward. In fact with the geographic information systems or geographic information science. So what we usually call GIS. We’re talking about a system to storage, manipulate, manage, analyze and display spatial data. Where for spatial data we mean any piece of information about the real world location. That is often times represented in maps. So anything from. When we search in a map from how to go from A to B etc.. We are dealing with GIS. So many people who maybe never heard before about this system is very likely that you use it already in the past. However to understand the system behind the GIS we have to understand that there are. There is a composition of different things from hardware to software to data people and procedures. And one of the most widely used GIS software is the QgIS system that until now is also available for free and it also has a very good feature. It’s open source so that everybody every user can contribute to the QgIS coding community so it’s very easy to start off. However it doesn’t have a certain level of detail as other softwares but I would say probably is the best software to start to with the GIS. And as I mentioned there are also other softwares such as the ArcGIS and that info. However talking about GIS. So geographic information system could seem that we’re talking just about a certain discipline geography. Nevertheless the application of GIS are very broad and multidisciplinary because we can apply GIS to ecology to social sciences and also. Other subjects so that we can analyze certain phenomena. For example urban planning is one of the disciplines that works the most with GIS. So that spatial data is collected with regards to a specific issue for example floated areas in a city or location of certain building types etc. Therefore the governments or the industry can be formed about certain issues as you mention and this can be applied for urban development plans. And overall I would say this this process is very efficient and transparent. So more governments and the private sector stakeholders have started to looking to GIS applications.

[00:05:29.250] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
Okay thank you. Thanks for that I think it’s a very clear introduction to you know with the different potentials are for GIS and I think it’s important also to share a little bit about the software that QgIS is not a complicated thing. Start working with the fact that it is open access and that it is available for everyone is an important part of helping to scale up these kind of energy efficiency projects because it means it is accessible for people and also for people within that field so I know that you have some examples of how GIS is being used for energy efficiency. You’ve come both in your own research but also that you’ve come about in in other areas and it may be interesting to talk to them a little bit because it’s so for some people I think very very vague and non concrete. How we can start using the system using this type of science when we talk about energy efficiency and when we talk about scaling up energy efficiency particularly so it might be nice if you can go into those a little bit. I’m particularly excited about the one from the nighttime lights that you mentioned earlier.

[00:06:35.050] – Valeria Zambianchi
You’re right Susana. I think it’s very good also for our audience to have an idea of how to take this kind of abstract concept of what is GIS into a very concrete understanding on how can we apply to energy efficiency or energy issues and find many many people in our audience never heard of it of this system however they could learn from this podcast but they’re understanding OK I probably could have a fast enough a certain process by using these data have to say that energy access issues are probably some of the most research for GIS into just the scholars. In fact the spatial data and GIS used to assess for example energy access issues in rural areas in one of the very interesting and interesting studies that I will discuss just now draws from remote satellite data collected by the US defense meterological satellite program with the data set nighttime lights. There was that you just mention. In fact this data set has being used by scholars so to research electrification and energy access in certain areas both in the U.S. and other countries by collecting this data that represent nighttime lights. Is it possible to visualize which areas are using electricity and which ones aren’t. And this is mentioned before does a very thorough study and I have to say that there is a very detailed paper which I suggest everybody to have a look at called satellite data for the social sciences measuring rural electrification with nighttime lights and in this paper the authors compared the nighttime lights data and the Rural Electrification data with the Census of India from 2011 and the results are very relevant not only because the data set. So the nighttime lights is very accurate but also because it really demonstrates that GIS is a powerful tool with a high level of accuracy and the detail that can be also used when administrative data are limited or not updated. So for example data on electrification which have not been updated over the years. This paper should be also uploaded on the web page of this podcast on the knowledge management system of the Copenhagen centre in energy efficiency and also energy access is analyze and visualize in the energy access explore by WRI where case studies come from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya where a certain number of countries use a certain satellite data on energy demand and supply and our combined with Census data from various levels of governance. So both the national level, subnational level, local level and the resulting product is a map. And it’s a very interesting map to have look at because it’s interactive and you can see the current energy access stages but also the potential one. So here we have another useful tool for governments agencies and another inclusion of energy issues in the GIS world especially also not just concerning countries in the global north but countries in the global south where usually the access to certain data is a bit more difficult or limited and GIS deployment is also being used for energy planning and renewable energy systems. However while energy access and electricity and great analytics have already gained quite a position in the data sets and GIS applications deployment for GIS energy efficiency applications is starting just now. And one of GIS applications with most potential with regards to energy efficiency is the building sector. This is an other case that I decided to bring about here because I think it keeps a very concrete idea of how GIS could be used by energy efficiency practitioners, researchers, managers etc. The United States Department of Energy and other subsidiaries created an online GIS related tool that provides homeowners, buyers, renters, landlords etc. a score that measures the energy use of residential building and it’s also comparable score. Which has a lot of potential to nudge people into increasing the energy efficiency of your home. This tool is called the Home Energy score. H E S and it also allows buyers and renters to make purchasing or rent decisions in light of their question how much energy would these house consume. This core system goes from 1 to 10 where 1 is the highest spent for energy consumption and 10 is the lowest. So that 1 means that the house uses more energy than 85 percent of other houses in the US and 10 means less than 90 percent of the houses in the US. And now some local governments have started to use this tool as well. The city of Portland in Oregon adopted an ordinance some years ago that established that all residential properties for sale and rent in the city must be including a H E S score and this system is also combined with other energy efficiency related applications. So one of the features allows for a user to see how much would one save each year if they upgraded their energy use by retrofitting the house from score a to b. So for example how much would I save next year if I upgrade my house from my score being three to my score being seven. This is a very concrete example and is also something that not just government can use but also houseowners, citizens, potential buyers. So again it builds upon this idea that GIS should be open to should be an open opportunity for everybody and through some geospatial analysis with GIS. Also being possible to access if there is any correlation between some demographic characteristic of a household and the energy efficiency of their home so it’s quite an interesting GIS deployment for energy deficiency I would say. However the amount of robust data that are publicly available is not a lot and is still needs some development. Yet some some goverments started to use GIS to evaluate their energy efficiency programs. In fact another very interesting paper uploading on the web page of the podcasts on the knowledge management system of the Copenhagen centre on energy efficiency builds up on data by the Massachusetts program administrators to spatially evaluate certain programs in their sub their iteration and participation trend, energy savings, consumer revolution across the years. And I believe that these results offer a very innovative understanding of the dynamics with the energy efficiency but also it offers a comprehensive display of energy efficiency that goes beyond numbers and includes geographic representation and this analysis is outlined in the paper. “Watts”, Where and Why. Using GIS to identify energy efficiency opportunities and for those interested in energy efficiency projects and evaluation I truly recommended it because also explained the methodology behind it, there are some graphic representation. So for those who actually want to go beyond the theory of GIS and start to understand how could I implement this system into my everyday life as a researcher, as project manager, as technician and is a great start and a true job being to another sector and GIS application I would like to now talk about the last case study that I would like to discuss with you about because I find very fascinating deploying the GIS for public lighting planning in fact using light maps can show the quantity of lights in a certain area. Either urban or rural. And it’s also a very good tool for the development of cities. Lighting in fact is not only related to energy efficiency and capacities several issues in a sea from safety to fight pollution and is oftentimes in the agenda of governments especially the global south. And when the spatial distribution of public lights or their infrastructure is not optimal then the place is very energy inefficient. So an assessment and a visualization of artificial lights in a certain location has the potential for designing efficient street light systems. And that is oftentimes combined with the three DCT models a number of cities is is moving towards supplying GIS for the lighting design as well. Yet the number of cities is still very little and there is a lot of potential and room to collect more and more data to create an open robust dataset for GIS. That can be applicable for energy efficiency purposes from resindential sector to transport sector to street lighting etc. These are the case studies I found the most interesting so far and I think that could introduce the audience to a good idea of how GIS can be applied into the energy world especially to energy efficiency and I would encourage everybody to understand a bit more about it not just by reading papers or looking at certain maps but also to create the run maps because as mentioned before there are a lot of open softwares for free where people can download their software and start playing around and quoting and being part of GIS community and see that actually it’s quite straightforward system. And then as mentioned before with a lot of potential and should have a more energy efficient enthusiastics on board.

[00:16:17.080] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
Thank you. I think those are some really nice examples of what the potential is in terms of using GIS especially to visualize and to make these types of dynamics that are happening in energy efficiency clear. One of the questions I think that comes up when we talk about these things is that when we talk about GIS being used to generate insight on the correlations and the dynamics that happen within these systems a lot of it always sounds like it’s very much based on big data and it’s a lot of it is always based on these types of mathematical models where we’re trying to interpret data in a spatially explicit way. I’d be interested to know what you think about using these types of methodologies for different countries because we have some very explicit examples. You mentioned India also in the US where things might be a little bit more easy to find certain datasets. How replicable using these methodologies are. And if this is also a way that we can generate data for areas where currently that may not be available yet.

[00:17:24.250] – Valeria Zambianchi
Well thank you very much for this question I think is very valuable so for people that would like to apply GIS to different scenarios. And as mentioned before the data sets about certain countries any particular about energy efficiency issues is not a lot. However if you look in the past for example when GIS started to be applied for example in ecology studies and understand certain conservation issues or biodiversity issues the data sets were very little, were very small and not very accurate. However over the years through the expansion of the GIS community and a collection of more and more data the datasets became stronger and more and more detailed. So I forsee that for energy efficiency this can be the case as well because this is exactly what happened. We the GIS for energy access at first it was thought that the data available are not many and always it goes towards certain countries where there’s always more availability of data. However over the years the data increased and now energy access can be also analyzed in countries. As mentioned before like Tanzania or Uganda or Kenya which also benefited a lot by having other data from for example administration or census and so on. So it is a big benefit for example of energy efficiency compared to other sciences for example biodiversity and we can rely a lot on data coming also from governments because for example we could assess certain energy consumption details and so on in certain areas. However as mentioned before this is something that will not happen overnight, will happen over a certain amount of time. But as more and more cities are relying on GIS planners. I’m not certain but I really hope that energy efficiency data sets became will become more and more available and more present.

[00:19:29.200] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
I agree. I think that’s a good hope to have. And I think there are indications that we can be optimistic about that. I mean there’s more and more examples coming out. I wanted to pick up specifically when we talk about the availability of data sets and the availability of information. You mentioned the example we’re talking about energy efficiency in buildings and in the US particularly the legislation that allows for the scoring of different houses. And I think that ties in with being able to use GIS to also engage with people and with citizens and with users in a much better way. Do you think that there is value in making information that already exists spatially explicit? Because I think often there are people that have data sets that have more value than they think it’s just that data set in some kind of database doesn’t always necessarily look so attractive. And do you think that there is something about the maps that GIS creates that can be used to engage with citizens in a different way?

[00:20:29.750] – Valeria Zambianchi
Yes of course. I mean as you mentioned for example this, this case of a city in the US that made an ordinance so a full regulation for people to access and to use actively this, this GIS deployment in just it means not only that that tool is useful but that the tool is easy for people to use it and to understand it and this is a way I think to encourage people not just use GIS but also to collect data that are important and relevant for GIS planners and in particular about that case I really like that it just goes beyond energy efficiency. From a technical point of view but also looks at how GIS can nudge people towards being more energy efficient. In fact for example I think was always in the US so when certain cities they started to make these experiments economic experiment where they were including in their electricity bill a comparison between house A to house B. However I think that also having a geographic idea of how this comparison is applied can really help not just households from understand how much energy they are using and consuming but also for the real estate community and the city planning and urban planning is itself to understand if there is any district correlation towards certain energy consumption and so on. But however I really think that making GIS more user friendly is probably the best way to make people more prone towards collecting data that are useful for the GIS community.

[00:22:03.830] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
I agree I think that’s a challenge too. In some cases move out of the really hard core arc and Q programs and towards more user friendly apps. Before ending this podcast because I think that with that we have a pretty good overview of what the potentials are for using GIS to look at energy efficiency and particularly scaling energy efficiency and being able to replicate things that already exist. I just wanted to say that here at the Copenhagen center on energy efficiency we’ve started working with these types of methodologies we’re looking forward to being able to present some results hopefully but also the way that we’ve done it for looking at buildings and the potential for energy efficiency buildings in Belgrade soon. We even engaging with methodologies in Chile and Temuco looking at how we can spatially allocate and apportion different types of heating demand. So those are some of the projects that we have underway and a lot of that has been under development because we’ve been starting to recognize the potential that GIS has to try and scale up energy efficiency.

[00:23:09.740] – Valeria Zambianchi
And on this note actually I would really like to congratulate and encourage the Copenhagen centre on energy efficiency for using this tool because not many research centres or consultancy centres are yet using GIS. And I think that being this innovative will be very helpful for your projects and I’m really looking forward to seeing the applications that you will be doing.

[00:23:31.840] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
Thank you. So are we. It’s an exciting time I think for starting to use these kinds of technologies and these methodologies especially since like you say there’s more and more data becoming available so we can start doing more exciting things and starting to think about how we can use examples that other people have done and apply them in the different countries and with a different energy efficiency technologies that we’re working with. So thank you very much.

[00:23:55.620] – Valeria Zambianchi
Thank you.

[00:23:56.390] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
Before ending this podcast I just wanted to thank you again for coming and for talking about this. As I mentioned earlier Valeria is leaving us to go to a different research activity for a while but she’ll be coming back afterwards and will hopefully be able to ourselves continue working with this exciting field. I’d also like to thank you of course all our listeners who are listening to this episode. All of these episodes will be uploaded on the Copenhagen Centre’s website at c2e2.unepdtu U N E P DTU dot org This is also where we have the knowledge management system will make the papers available that Valeria talked about. Also of course all of the other episodes of this series on scaling up energy efficiency which will come in the future so thank you again thank you again Valeria for joining.

[00:24:42.170] – Valeria Zambianchi
Thank you very much for your time Susana. And thank you very much the audience and I’m looking forward to listening to more podcast for the Copenhagen center.

[00:24:50.910] – Susana Adriana Paardekoope
Stay tuned. And goodbye from currently still sunny Copenhagen.

[00:25:00.650] – Aristeidis Tsakiris
Thanks for listening to the podcast Geographic Information System applications for scaling up energy efficiency with Susana Paardekoope and Valeria Zambianchi. If you like our show share it on your social network and If you want to know more about today’s topic check our webpage Stay tuned and subscribe to receive notification about our next podcast. See you at the next episode. And do not forget. Energy efficiency is a journey not a destination. Cheers.

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Sectors: Buildings, Cross cutting

Country / Region: Global

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In 1 user collection: C2E2 Podcasts

Knowledge Object: eLearning

Published by: Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency

Publishing year: 2019

Author: Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency


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