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CEC Interactive Data Tools Show How California is Meeting Its Clean Energy Goals

By MPCO Staff

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is transforming data into interactive maps and graphics that allow the public to see how California is doing meeting our clean energy goals.

As California’s primary energy policy and planning agency, the CEC collects an array of data on topics such as energy infrastructure, fuels, and renewable energy.

Modern technology is being used to develop interactive maps and dashboards as part of the CEC’s efforts to modernize and improve access to data. The data exploration tools provides a way to track California’s progress toward 100 percent clean energy.

The tools also give the public an easy and accessible way to explore data and visualize trends and patterns.

The CEC’s Enterprise Data and Analytics Office is working to improve the CEC’s internal data infrastructure, which in turn improves the quality and quantity of public datasets. Jason Harville, who serves as the director of the office, wants the CEC to become the go-to hub for energy data in California and believes the CEC’s approach benefits all.

“This (infrastructure) also allows us to be a resource for providing publicly useful datasets to facilitate the market, to facilitate our partners and private industry to do what they do best and innovate and tackle our climate and energy goals,” Harville said. “The benefits of what we're doing flow through to the rest of the state to and to the public.”

You can find out a range of information on zero-emission vehicles such as how many electric school buses Senate Bill 110 funded or where electric vehicle chargers are distributed across California. There are dashboards on clean energy sources, hydroelectric power, or the average price of a gallon of gas.

These numerous datasets are possible because of the CEC’s immense data collection efforts, which set it apart from other similar agencies across the country, Harville said.

“There's no other energy agency that is pulling together a type of dataset... at this scale and with the capabilities that we're developing,” he said.

To power the data visualization tools, the CEC collects data from utilities, city governments, and other energy authorities, often as part of legislative actions and requirements. In 2018, the CEC significantly expanded its data collection efforts under Title 20, Section 1353, which authorizes the agency to collect billing- and interval-level data from every gas and electric meter in the state's six largest utilities. Because this data can be collected in intervals as small as five minutes, this new responsibility presented a massive data challenge.

To prepare for this challenge in 2018, Harville’s team constructed a new data infrastructure.

The biggest change was implementing a technology called Snowflake, which is a cloud data warehouse service. Previously, every CEC division and office maintained their own data. This made datasets almost invisible between CEC divisions and offices, and datasets were often incompatible because of different variable definitions.

Now, every dataset is funneled into a central warehouse, improving access internally. Standardized variables ensure that data collection projects use the same definitions and metrics when describing the same variables. By adjusting how data is collected, such as by improving data submission forms, the CEC can weed out bad data points before they reach the data warehouse.

“All of those three things together mean that we can more quickly do things with that data,” Harville said. “We can develop products like dashboards more quickly and easily and in a more streamlined way.”

These improvements will help the CEC continue its efforts to make data more transparent and useful for everyone.

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