Amsterdam takes first stride under the EU TRANSFORM project towards building
an Energy Atlas Plus to answer key energy-related questions about the city, on any
scale, from a single street to the city as a whole
How much carbon dioxide do our cities emit on a
yearly basis? And where do these emissions originate
from? These are questions that can be answered
by using datasets, a clever way of combining data
to distil relevant information. They are the foundation on
which smart energy cities are built. If we understand the
complexities of the energy system, we can start discussing
which levers to pull and what results our actions may bring.
Relevant data of the appropriate size and scale is often
not easily accessible. Then there is a lack of knowledge on
how to process data into useful information, or how to use
them for effective communication. The various partners of
the TRANSFORM programme — a consortium of leading
European cities, energy and grid companies, and commercial
and knowledge partners committed to strengthen their
low-carbon energy agendas — in Amsterdam are working
towards resolving at least some of these problems. They are
compiling the Energy Atlas Plus, a prototype environment
designed to share data, link datasets and reveal information.
The Energy Atlas Plus supports decision making, building
business cases, writing scenarios and establishing strategy.
Over the next two years, the TRANSFORM partners, led by
Accenture and the Austrian company AIT, will assist the cities
of Amsterdam, Genoa, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Vienna and the
Grand Lyon region with their data collection and the design of
a decision support environment for energy transition projects.
This environment has been named the Energy Atlas Plus and
will be tested and developed by processing real user cases.
Hamburg: energy & poverty
In the city of Hamburg similar data was
From separate datasets to the energy atlas
Amsterdam’s Department for Physical Planning has taken
its first stride towards the Energy Altas Plus by producing an
energy atlas version 1.0, which is a combination of datasets.
The Energy Atlas builds on the earlier work carried out by
other cities, including the cities of Hamburg, Berlin and New
York. It comprises data on three main themes — the (spatial
and social) context of the city, the use of energy and the potential
for local energy production in the city or region. The
Energy Atlas answers key energy-related questions about the
city, on any scale, from a single street to the city as a whole.
The atlas was developed by collecting separate datasets
from various organisations and converting these into map
images and infographics. It was not always easy to convince
organisations to share their data and the process called for
clearly defined commitments and the confidence to trust
each other. The local government played a pivotal role in this
process, by bringing together different parties and organising
meetings in which datasets were directly applied to explore
the viability of a number of projects in one of Amsterdam’s
districts. The Department of Physical Planning was able to
contribute its expertise and support the discussions with the
use of map images.
There were also a couple of technical challenges which
needed to be met. Firstly, organisations often have their own
particular way of storing data. Secondly, new data cannot
always be converted directly into a spatial representation;
first, a manual translation needs to be carried out by linking
coordinates to address details. Through this process, data
previously used for administrative purposes was converted
to map images. This time consuming process could not have
been carried out without the knowledge of GIS, which can
assign information to a physical location.
Variables in scale and type: looking for
The spatial and social contexts make up a large part of the
atlas, as they have a direct impact on CO2 emissions and the
energy system. Examples are the size of houses, the date of
construction of houses and offices and the building density
of a city. Other relevant indicators would be the ownership of
property, available roof surface for solar panels, disposable incomes
and consumption patterns, willingness among citizens
to invest or launch initiatives, and modes of transport.
Different contexts also enable monitoring of how much energy
the city uses and in which areas savings could be made,
or who would benefit from the production of sustainable energy.
People can also see what is already being done in the city
in terms of sustainable energy and how they can connect to
existing sources or networks. One of the energy-related issues
closely related to the spatial context is the use of solar power.
Its potential is for a
great part determined by the landscape
of roofs available. Similarly, the potential for thermal energy
storage is also dependent on the spatial context, but in a different
way (excess heat or cold can be stored underground in the
form of water, to be used in another season). The composition
of the soil the energy is stored in and the use of the built environment
determines the suitability for thermal energy storage.
As a final point, the atlas demonstrates in map images
and (validated) numbers that each part of the city has its own
characteristics and potential. This means that any energy
strategy for the city or the region should have a built-in flexibility
to take advantage of these specific opportunities.
At the TRANSFORM workshop in smart
From energy atlas to energy atlas plus:
With regard to the sharing of data, the next logical step up
from the energy atlas is an always up-to-the-minute interactive
tool to support discussion-making among various
stakeholders on possible new projects. TRANSFORM is
therefore devising its own decision support tool: the Energy
Atlas Plus. To this end, all existing tools and instruments
were thoroughly researched.
By using the data from the energy
atlas, this tool can provide
a picture of not only the
current energy situation
of any area of a city,
but also the contributing
Moreover, the tool
will also offer the
possibility to extrapolate
size, energy prices or
projected new housing
developments could lead to different energy choices than one
would expect on the basis of the current situation. Being able
to assess these scenarios allows for robust decision making.
Within the tool, the measures which one selects can be
applied to the location. With the use of maps, diagrams and
graphs, the tool will subsequently offer quick and simple
insight into the impact a measure will have in the selected
area, including the CO2 emissions, but also how much
stakeholders will have to spend on new energy systems. So
the (economic) interests of stakeholders are also taken into
account. The insights the tool provides could encourage various
stakeholders to align their agendas.
The way ahead
The aim is to make the process of data sharing better, smarter
and faster in the future, to share knowledge within the framework
of TRANSFORM and to contribute to the discussions
on a European level. Meanwhile, participating cities have
run up against barriers to sharing data. The reasons are that
parties are not clear on the use of sharing, or that availability
of data has been contractually restricted or that it proves difficult
to give detailed information whilst respecting privacy.
In some cities no data may be available at all, compelling us
to work with proxy data.
The Amsterdam energy atlas is completed and published
on www.maps.amsterdam.nl. The Energy Atlas Plus is still
in development, a first version is expected to be ready in
mid-2015. The next step will be to test the tool in Smart Urban
Labs or at strategic sessions in one of the cities. The basic
rule remains that these tests are carried out while projects
are underway, so that they can be of instant practical value.