Developing a common ontology for energy system analysis

The (energy system) community is still missing a common ontology.
As part of a recently started research project (SzenarienDB) we will initiate and organize a “common language”.
We will not start from scratch but rather collect and harmonise existing material like:

Details will follow shortly.


Hi Ludwig. Hugely important work, good luck. Robbie

  • reegle glossary (also described here) — useful to examine but way too general for our needs
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Hello again Ludwig

International standard ISO 13600, now withdrawn, is also worth reviewing. It attempted a coherent set of concepts to be used when describing energy systems in general terms. I do not know who initiated the standard or why it was withdrawn, but in my view it was a useful document. Some of the terminology selected by the standard is a bit obscure, so I suggest you abandon the actual vocabulary. For instance, an energyware describes what other authors variously name an energy carrier, energy vector, energy commodity, and generic fuel. Because the standard has been withdrawn, it is not possible to purchase it. Anybody wanting an electronic copy should contact me directly.

ISO (15 November 1997). Technical energy systems: basic concepts — ISO 13600:1997 — First edition. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization.

ISO (1 May 1998). Technical energy systems: basic concepts — ISO 13600:1997 — Technical corrigendum 1. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization.

Abstract: This International Standard gives the basic concepts needed to define and describe technical energy systems. It introduces the concept technosphere and its division into two sectors. The economic purpose of one of these is to supply the other with energy in the technical-economic sense, that is, energyware, to be distinguished from energy in the physical sense. The items included in that concept are given in a closed list. The standard prescribes the input-output model and the consolidation principle applied to technical energy systems. The outputs from the model are the intended product or service, the releases from the technosphere to nature, the use of natural resources and the associated exploitative impacts.

ISO (15 June 1998). Technical energy systems: structure for analysis: energyware supply and demand sectors — ISO 13601:1998. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization.

Abstract: This International Standard specifies a structure that shall be used to describe and analyze technical energy systems. It defines subsectors of the energyware supply and demand sectors, and furthermore defines a model structure for each subsector. This provides a set of standardized modules, according to which all data shall be organized and presented. The structure serves the same purpose in studies of technical energy systems as an accounting code plan does in bookkeeping. It is principally aligned with the structure of official international statistics (ISIC) in order to facilitate data acquisition.

The use of this structure facilitates the comparison between different studies of technical energy systems and permits partial results of one study to be used in other studies.

ISO (2009). Technical energy systems: methods for analysis: part 1: general — ISO 13602-1:2002 — Revision 2009. Geneva, Switzerland: International Standards Organization.

Abstract: ISO 13602-1 provides methods to analyze, characterize and compare technical energy systems (TESs) with all their inputs, outputs and risk factors. It contains rules and guidelines for the methodology for such analyses.

ISO 13602-1 is intended to establish relations between inputs and outputs and thus to facilitate certification, marking and labeling.

I would also recommend you look at Groscurth et al (1995). Although two decades old, this paper describes the fundamental structure that all engineering-based high-resolution models use today. The abstract NEMESS model described later became the basis for the deeco modeling framework. HTH, Robbie

Groscurth, Helmuth-M, Thomas Bruckner, and Reiner Kümmel. (1995) “Modeling of energy-services supply systems”. Energy. 20 (9): 941–958.

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Thanks for the input. There are students in Magdeburg (OvGU) processing the material these days.
@robbie.morrison Can you send me copy of the ISO via mail?
As far as I see we will decide for OWL and use a collaborate tool to edit entries.
We hope to present the first version on the openmod meeting in Zürich.

Hello again Ludwig. Mantzoz et al (2016) documents the European Commission POTEnCIA energy model being developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC). POTEnCIA utilizes NACE codes to classify industries if you want to head down that track. The report has lots of tables near the end to draw on. HTH Robbie.

Mantzos, Leonidas, Tobias Wiesenthal, Ioanna Kourti, Nicoleta-Anca Matei, Elena Navajas Cawood, Anastasios Papafragkou, Máté Rózsa, Peter Russ, and Antonio Soria Ramirez (2016). POTEnCIA model description — Version 0.9 — JRC100638. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. ISBN 978-92-79-56945-6. doi:10.2791/416465.

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Ludwig raises the question of how to organize a working group to develop a common ontology. See the following post for a general discussion on “Openmod Working Groups”:

Collection of use cases and requirements of and to an ontology (please add your contributions):

Use cases

  • Machine readable physical unit translation
  • Model integration (figuring out how terminology differs between models and how to align them)
  • Model comparisons/experiments
  • Model coupling


  • Enabling interoperability, perhaps using RDF and datapackage metadata


Going forward: create a transparent working group for this that everybody can contribute to.
Also: publish the use cases already collected and a small ontology prototype.
Important: Don’t start from a blank slate and create ‘yet another energy ontology’, but try to integrate the stuff which is already out there.

Hi @ludwig.huelk These manuals from ENTSO-E (the umbrella organization for European transmission system operators) might also provide useful background. They are the current versions as far as I know.


ENTSO-E (24 February 2014). Detailed data descriptions — Version 1, release 4 (v1r4). Brussels, Belgium: ENTSO-E.

ENTSO-E (1 May 2014). Manual of procedures for the ENTSO-E central information Transparency Platform — Version 2.0 (v2r0). Brussels, Belgium: ENTSO-E.

Hey Ludwig, hi all,

  1. do you know Enargus 2.0? (corrected link)
  • They actually tried to set up an ontology but more “language-based” not so much with the orientation / target group of modellers.
  1. In ENavi, we’re in the first few developping steps for a database for model-input and output data. Since the structure of the data will be evolving we’re using a document-based (mongoDB) system. This way, for us names are highly important to access the data. We were discussing having an “alias-dictionary” for the model specific terms e.g. CAPEX ~ Investment Cost ~ InvestCost etc. We’re just at the very beginning but I feel synergetic potential :slight_smile:



Hey @accon,

we already talked with the people behind enargus. Unfortunately this ontology is not “open” and thus not usable.
We are currently defining the development process for the ontology.
We will use this GitHub for communication and collaboration. We are happy to see your contributions and join our efforts.

Hi @ludwig.huelk How is the EnArgus ontology not open? Their project page states (the translation to english is not official):

Der Zugang zu Informationen über Energieforschung in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist für die interessierte Öffentlichkeit, Projektträger und Bereiche aus der Politik von entscheidender Bedeutung: sei es zur Verbesserung der Transparenz staatlicher Förderpolitik oder zur Bewertung von Technologieentwicklungen.

Access to information on energy research in the Federal Republic of Germany is of vital importance to the interested public, project funders, and policy-makers, whether it be to improve the transparency of state research policies or to assess technology developments.

Do we need to talk to their management team about the need to open license outputs?

We already had this talk with officials. The problem is, that the data was created quite a long time ago and ownership could not be identified, thus an open license cannot be granted any more.
This is just another example how import open licenses are :wink:
But thanks for the help @robbie.morrison

Hi @ludwig.huelk There are special provisions for orphaned works in Europe. I just checked UrhG §61. This section allow one to republish but not alter orphaned works, but only for works that have already been published. Also, Wikipedia says it is unclear whether software is covered or not by these provisions. So that’s a stalemate.

Hi @ludwig.huelk Here are three energy management ontologies, mostly inspired by smart grid development needs, I would guess.


Cuenca, Javier, Felix Larrinaga, and Edward Curry (September 2017). A unified semantic ontology for energy management applications.

König, M and Vlado Stankovski (January 2012). An ontology of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in buildings. Annual Conference of Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 1:183–192.

Weise, Mathias, María Poveda Villalón, Raúl García Castro, Jérôme Euzenat, Luz Maria Priego, Bruno Fies, Andrea Cavallaro, Jan Peters-Anders, and Kleopatra Zoi Tsagkari (August 2015). Ontologies and datasets for energy management system interoperability — Version 2.0.

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@ludwig.huelk, is there an agreement on how to call the different activities or products of the “energy system”? I saw UN has a “standard international energy product classification” but most of the links I’ve seen are broken and at first glance it looked too generic.

I say this because next week I am participating in a hackathon in barcelona, to work on the development of BONSAI, an opensource database for product footprinting. The starting point is Exiobase. but we want to test how we would incorporate data from ENTSO-E in the database. For that matter it would be good if we build on some agreement of “how to call things”.

Btw, any suggestions and collaborations are very welcomed!

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Hi @miguelfa,

as far as I know, there is no “global agreement” on how to call things in the energy system. There is an usable basis (like glossaries and conventions). We are constantly working on the creation and implementation of the ontology.
I already heard about the BONSAI project and we are happy to collaborate.

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Because it came up in the discussion in the do-a-thon on the openmod workshop:
The United Nations Framework on Classification (UNFC) originally stems from evaluating the profitability of mining processes but was lately transferred to wind, solar and biomass power. It may be interesting although quite project-oriented.

That document as a citation:

Expert Group on Resource Classification (12 June 2014). Specifications for the application of the United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources 2009 (UNFC-2009) to Renewable Energy Resource. Geneva, Switzerland: UN Economic Commission for Europe.

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Lund, Chris (7 January 2014). Sustainable energy overarching knowledge taxonomy — Diagram. Perth, Australia: School of Engineering and Information Technology, Murdoch University. Date from PDF metadata.

A preprint on the Open Energy Ontology (OEO) that is being developed within this community:

Glauer, Martin, Meisam Booshehri, Lukas Emele, Simon Fluegel, Hannah Förster, Johannes Frey, Ulrich Frey, Janna Hastings, Christian Hofmann, Carsten Hoyer-Klick, Ludwig Hülk, Anna Kleinau, Kevin Knosala, Leander Kotzur, Patrick Kuckertz, Till Mossakowski, Fabian Neuhaus, Martin Robinius, Mirjam Stappel, and Detlef Stolten (December 2020). “The Open Energy Ontology — Preprint”. Alternative URL. Full copyright.

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