Categories
updates

Publishing PUDL with Datasette

Users have been asking for live access to our data forever, either via a PUDL API or a web interface, but we didn’t feel like we had the resources to maintain that kind of service and ensure it was reliable. Then a few weeks ago we came across an awesome open source project called Datasette that takes SQLite databases, wraps them in a Docker container, and lets users explore the data with their web browser.

It’s perfect for publishing read-only, infrequently updated data. That’s exactly what we’re doing with PUDL, and we’re already storing the data in SQLite, so it only took an afternoon to get the development version of our databases published. This goes a long way toward satisfying some of our data access goals for less technical users, which we touched on a few weeks ago in this post.

Our Datasette instance can be found at https://data.catalyst.coop and it contains both the raw FERC Form 1 DB, with all of the Form 1 data from 1994-2019, and our PUDL DB, which includes the EIA 860 and EIA 923 data from 2009-2019, and the subset of the (113!) FERC Form 1 tables that we’ve taken the time to clean up so far.

The system has already made it easier for us to collaborate and share the huge pile of data we’ve compiled over the last four years. We’re looking forward to using this system to get our data into the hands of more users.

Just a few examples of custom SQL queries or whole tables:

Please give it a spin, and let us know what you think! This is still experimental, and the interface will probably evolve. If you find problems, feel free to create an issue on GitHub, or drop us a line at pudl@catalyst.coop. Also, we’re still hoping to get the EIA 861 and FERC 714 integrated by the end of the year. See our Data We Wrangle page for additional datasets of interest. And if you’ve got other favorite tools for publishing live, open data, let us know in the comments.

Categories
updates

PUDL Infrastructure Roadmap for 2021

A couple of weeks ago I attended TWEEDS 2020 virtually (like everything this year) and talked about Catalyst’s ongoing Public Utility Data Liberation (PUDL) project, and especially the challenges of getting a big pile of data into the hands of different kinds of users, using different tools for different purposes. It ended up sketching out a bit of a PUDL infrastructure roadmap for the next year, and so we thought it would be a good idea to write it up here too.

We’ll have a separate post looking at our 2021 data roadmap.

The US Energy Information Asymmetry

PUDL is all about addressing a big information asymmetry in the regulatory and legislative processes that affect the US energy system. Utilities have much more information about their own systems than policymakers and advocates typically do. As a result, regulators often defer to the utilities on technical & analytical points. Commercial data exists, but it’s expensive. We want to get enough data into the hands of other kinds of stakeholders that they can make credible quantitative arguments to regulators, and challenge unfounded assertions put forward by utilities.

Federal Agencies and Their Favorite File Formats
Categories
analysis

Boiler Generator Associations from EIA 923 and 860

In working to calculate the marginal cost of electricity of all of the generating units across the country, we first had to calculate the heat rate (MMBtu per MWhr) for each generating unit. The heat rate allows us to attribute the fuel costs, reported at the plant level, to the electric generation, reported at the generating unit level. The heat rate is derived from fuel consumption (MMBtu), reported at the boiler level, and electricity generation (MWh), reported at the generating unit level. To understand the heat rate, one must link up all the boilers with the generators in a given generating unit. Our work to this end uncovered a hole in EIA’s 860 reported boiler generator associations. We filled this hole through a series of matching cartwheels and network analysis.

We’ve recently reconfigured our database ingest process to move the new and improved boiler generator associations into its own table in PUDL. You can also read through this process as a Github Gist.

Categories
analysis

Heat Rate Calculation for EIA Generators

Catalyst is pulling together an estimate of the marginal cost of electricity (MCOE) for every natural gas and coal fired power plant in the US whose data we can get our hands on. We’re using data from the EIA 923, EIA 860, and FERC Form 1 to do it.  Getting the heat rate right for each generator is an important part of this calculation, but a lot of the required data is… not perfect. Here’s how we’re working through it.