Open letter to IEA and member countries requesting open data

This posting is a copy of an open letter sent to the IEA as a result of suggestions by Roser and Ritchie (2021) and Ritchie (2021). This version does not list all the 37 signatories by name, affiliation, and research interests.

Although this posting is under my login, @MalteSchaefer initiated the process, coordinated the letter, liaised with the signatories, and secured their final confirmations.

The underlying markdown file is available for download and reuse: (7.4 KB)

The London‑based Guardian newspaper ran a short article on the open letter two days later:

Scroll down for a French translation of the original letter.

An ongoing summary of events is provided in posting 10.


To the extent possible under law, Malte Schäfer and Robbie Morrison have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Letter. This work is published from: Germany.

Open letter to the International Energy Agency and its member countries: please remove paywalls from global energy data and add appropriate open licenses

8 December 2021

Dr Fatih Birol
Executive Director
International Energy Agency
Paris, France

Dear Dr Birol, dear members of the IEA, dear representatives of IEA member countries,

We the undersigned ask that the International Energy Agency (IEA) makes the datasets it receives and collates from its member countries available under suitable open licenses so that this information can be freely used and reused.1 Such status would enable both independent energy system analysts and the interested public to investigate and better understand future net‑zero and net‑negative energy systems. We will also address this same request to IEA member countries, associate member countries, and strategic partners in the hope that they can also influence IEA policies on this particular matter.

In this open letter, we review the arguments in support of our request, provide some legal context, introduce our community and conclude with the list of signatories.

Key arguments and proposed solution

Roser and Ritchie (2021) have already described the problems arising from the IEA providing their data behind paywalls. They also offer a simple solution: make the data publicly available and then have the member countries increase their financial contributions to the IEA by a modest amount (Roser and Ritchie estimate 5–6 million USD in total per annum) to make up the foregone revenue from proprietary data licensing. We therefore present here just a brief summary of the situation and the proposed solution. Those needing more context and detail should refer directly to Roser and Ritchie (2021).

Three decades of research have shown that we, as a global human society, need to rapidly transition to net-zero — and ultimately net-negative — emissions, in order to avoid the worst outcomes from a changing climate. The majority of anthropogenic emissions are related to energy conversion and use in some form or another — and particularly through the unabated use of fossil fuels. Besides climate change, energy conversion processes can be major contributors to other types of environmental and human harm, including local air pollution.

High-quality data are required to create effective and efficient transition pathways towards a net-zero society. These transition pathways rely on a thorough analysis and accurate modeling of current systems, including energy systems. The quality of the analytics and modeling is, however, critically determined by the data used to describe and characterize the systems of interest.

High-quality datasets already exist: they are published by the IEA but remain behind paywalls. And despite the IEA being a publicly funded institution, researchers and other interested third parties have to normally pay and consent to non‑disclosure to access the IEA data — while often working for public institutions, including universities, themselves.

Ultimately, a lack of data availability will lead to net-zero transition pathways that are both more costly and less effective than they should have been. It is also highly likely that the total amount of revenue foregone by the IEA, should they decide to stop selling their data, bears no relation to the global cost of less-than-optimal transition pathways. As indicated earlier, Roser and Ritchie (2021) estimate that the IEA licensing fees net about 5–6 million USD annually. The cost differentials between the various net-zero transition pathway scenarios will typically be several orders of magnitude higher than that from IEA data licensing fees.

The benefits of open data extend beyond climate change mitigation efforts. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that for the electricity, oil and gas, and transport sectors alone, open data could create an economic value of 1.3–2.0 trillion USD per year (Manyika et al 2013). Open data leads to less duplication of research efforts — with fewer resources wasted on recreating the paywalled IEA data from alternative and often inferior sources. Open data reduces inequality, since researchers from well‑off countries and institutions are better positioned to afford the purchase of IEA data. The credibility and replicability of research is enhanced: independent researchers can verify or challenge studies based on common data. Transparency is enhanced in relation to public policy development. Finally, open data improves outreach and engagement by reducing barriers for journalists and the public to access the data and understand its implications. It is therefore in everyone’s interest that the IEA data be open and freely available.

The proposed solution is straightforward and consists of two aspects: first, the IEA should remove the paywalls to its datasets while its member countries increase their financial contributions to the IEA to compensate for the foregone revenue from data licensing fees. The IEA has an important role in the ongoing energy transition, therefore it is clear that the organization requires adequate funding. Second, the liberated data then needs to be provided with appropriate open licenses to enable its use and reuse.

The undersigned will also ask their respective governments to increase their financial contributions to the IEA. The resulting benefits from available and open data, including more cost-efficient net-zero transition pathways, are very likely to outweigh the lost sales revenue by a very significant multiplier.

Summing up: making all past and present IEA datasets openly available should enable a more rapid, less costly, and more equitable transition to net-zero global energy systems, create additional economic value, increase the quality and quantity of research, and improve outreach and engagement with the public. The cost of this outcome is modest, and we believe could easily be shared among IEA member countries.

As Hannah Richie (2021) states in her Nature commentary: “To tackle global problems, the world must create open data.” We, the undersigned, agree wholeheartedly.

Legal aspects

The concept of open data is often not well understood. We therefore review some legal aspects in this section. As with any data that can be made public legitimately, the IEA data needs to carry appropriate open licensing.

We support the recent view of the United Kingdom Ofgem regulator that the Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license may be the most suitable (Ofgem 2021, footnote 7), while the metadata should be marked public domain via a Creative Commons CC0‑1.0 dedication to minimize any friction associated with downstream processing (Kreutzer 2011).

The European Union defines open data thus in recital 16 of the 2019/1024 Open Data Directive (European Commission 2019): “Open data as a concept is generally understood to denote data in an open format that can be freely used, re‑used and shared by anyone for any purpose.” That definition clearly rules out prohibitions on commercial usage.

We note that clause 1 of the 2021 UNFCCC COP26 agreement (UNFCCC 2021) reads that the agreement: “Recognizes the importance of the best available science for effective climate action and policymaking”. That must mean that key policy‑relevant national energy statistics should neither reside behind paywalls nor remain legally encumbered regarding their use and reuse.

We note that paragraph 15.2 of the 1966 UN ICESCR covenant (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) reads: “The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right [to science and culture] shall include those necessary for the conservation, the development and the diffusion of science and culture.” That must mean that member countries contributing data to the IEA have an obligation under international law to also provide those same national energy statistics to energy system analysts and the interested public for independent research and analysis as suitably licensed open data.

We wish to stress that the current situation is highly detrimental to our investigations into rapid decarbonization pathways for national and regional energy systems and their relative merits. On that exact theme, we would like to be able to replicate the results reported in the landmark IEA (2021a) roadmap — but are prevented from doing so because we cannot source and freely use and reuse the underlying datasets.2

Finally, we, as a community, are more than happy to liaise with the IEA on practical measures to help make this important information freely usable and reusable (Hirth 2020, Morrison 2018). We have experience interacting with the European Commission, the ENTSO‑E3 umbrella organization, market regulators, market operators, and various energy companies in this context

List of signatories

We the undersigned are energy system analysts and many of us are active in the Open Energy Modelling Initiative (openmod) community.4 Notwithstanding, we sign here simply as individuals.

The Open Energy Modelling Initiative was established in September 2014 to promote open source modeling and genuinely open data. The community has approximately 900 members subscribed to its mailing list and 800 in the discussion forum. To date, the openmod has held 14 workshops, and our next post‑Covid event is in planning.

Nationals from the following 18 countries are represented in the list of signatories: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and USA.

As indicated, some of the undersigned will forward copies of this open letter to their respective governments in order to highlight the problem in a national context too.

Please note that not all the 37 signatories are listed in this posting for reasons of personal privacy. Those that did opt for their names to be public are as follows:

Name Organization Role
Dhruvak Aggarwal Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), India Researcher working on power sector reforms, energy efficiency and renewable energy integration
Cruz Enrique Borges Hernández, PhD University of Deusto, Spain Researcher modeling household investment decisions on the energy transition, researcher on Smart Grid technologies and Coordinator of WHY project
Tom Brown, PhD Technical University of Berlin, Germany Professor of energy systems, developing open source energy transition models for use around the world that rely on high quality national data
Johannes Hampp Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany PhD candidate working on international energy systems and exchange
Sacha Hodencq Grenoble Electrical Engineering Laboratory (G2Elab), France PhD candidate working on open science for the design and operation of energy systems
Daniel Huppmann, PhD International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria Coordinator of the research theme “Scenario Services and Scientific Software” at the Energy, Climate, and Environment Program (ECE)
Francesco Lombardi, PhD TU Delft, Netherlands Post-doctoral researcher working on energy systems modelling to support the European energy transition
Pietro Lubello Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy PhD candidate on residential energy systems and energy communities modelling
Gunnar Luderer, PhD Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Technical University of Berlin, Germany Leader of the Energy Systems Group and Professor and Chair of the Global Energy Systems Department, working on Integrated Assessment Modeling and Global, regional and national pathways towards climate neutrality
Barry McMullin, PhD Dublin City University, Ireland Researcher in Paris-aligned energy system decarbonization policy
Robbie Morrison open energy modeling community Focus on open science, open data, and associated legal issues
Christopher Mutel, PhD Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland Researcher in prospective life cycle assessment of energy and mobility systems
Fabian Neumann, PhD Technical University of Berlin, Germany Researcher on transitions in the European energy system
Taco Niet, PhD Simon Fraser University School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, Canada Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Principal Investigator, ΔE+ Research Lab
Bryn Pickering, PhD ETH Zürich, Switzerland Researcher on cross-sectoral energy system decarbonization, from sub-national to continental scales
Sylvain Quoilin, PhD KU Leuven / University of Liège, Belgium Assistant Professor and Head of the “Integrated and Sustainable Energy Systems” research group
Malte Schäfer Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany PhD candidate modeling and analyzing electricity related emissions
Mirko Schäfer, PhD University of Freiburg, Germany Researcher working in energy system modelling and analysis, with a focus on scenario analysis and emission accounting
Ingmar Schlecht, PhD and ZHAW School of Management and Law, Germany Director at Neon, energy economics policy consulting and Postdoctoral researcher at ZHAW, power system market design and modelling
Adam Stein, PhD Breakthrough Institute, USA Researcher in energy system planning for decarbonization, resilience, and social equity
Johannes Thema (personal capacity) Researcher in energy policy modeling
Bo Weidema, PhD Aalborg University, Denmark Professor and President of the International Life Cycle Academy
Grant Wilson, PhD University of Birmingham, UK Head of the Energy Informatics Group, interested in local energy systems data for cross vector decarbonization
Jarrad Wright, PhD Past: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa / Future: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA Researcher working on developing a national level full-sector energy model utilizing open modelling frameworks


European Commission (26 June 2019). “Directive (EU) 2019/1024 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on open data and the re‑use of public sector information — PE/28/2019/REV/1”. Official Journal of the European Union. L 172: 56–83.

IEA (May 2021a). Net zero by 2050: a roadmap for the global energy sector. Paris, France: IEA Publications.

IEA (May 2021b). Net zero by 2050 scenario — Data product. International Energy Agency (IEA). Paris, France.

Hirth, Lion (1 January 2020). “Open data for electricity modeling: legal aspects”. Energy Strategy Reviews. 27: 100433. ISSN 2211‑467X. doi:10.1016/j.esr.2019.100433. Open access.

Kreutzer, Till (13 November 2014). Open content: a practical guide to using Creative Commons licences. Germany: German Commission for UNESCO, North Rhine-Westphalian Library Service Centre (hbz), Wikimedia Deutschland — Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens. ISBN 978‑3‑940785‑57‑2.

Manyika, James, Michael Chui, Diana Farrell, Steve Van Kuiken, Peter Groves, and Elizabeth Almasi Doshi (1 October 2013). Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information — Report. McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).

Morrison, Robbie (April 2018). “Energy system modeling: public transparency, scientific reproducibility, and open development”. Energy Strategy Reviews. 20: 49–63. ISSN 2211‑467X. doi:10.1016/j.esr.2017.12.010. Open access.

Ofgem (15 November 2021). Decision on Data Best Practice Guidance and Digitalisation Strategy and Action Plan Guidance. London, United Kingdom: Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). OGL‑UK‑3.0 license.

Roser, Max and Hannah Ritchie (7 October 2021). The International Energy Agency publishes the detailed, global energy data we all need, but its funders force it behind paywalls: let’s ask them to change it. Our World in Data. Oxford, United Kingdom.

Ritchie, Hannah (5 October 2021). “Covid’s lessons for climate, sustainability and more from our World in Data”. Nature. 598 (7879): 9–9. ISSN 1476‑4687. doi:10.1038/d41586‑021‑02691‑4.


1 The contents of this document are published under a Creative Commons CC0‑1.0 public domain dedication. The names of the undersigned should not be replicated separately from this document to preserve personal privacy and retain context.

2 In the case of the net‑zero by 2050 study (IEA 2021a), the underlying datasets (IEA 2021b) are, upon registration, available under a Creative Commons CC‑BY‑NC‑SA‑3.0‑IGO license. The use of an established public license is a clear step forward, but that particular license choice is, in our view, inadequate on two counts. First, the NC or non‑commercial attribute means the license does not qualify as open under established definitions for open data (for example, European Commission (2019) recital 16, also quoted in full elsewhere in this document). And second, only Creative Commons licenses from version 4.0 onwards are suitable for use on data. Earlier licenses versions, such as the CC‑BY‑NC‑SA‑3.0‑IGO license in question, do not waive the 96/9/EC database rights enabled by European Union law and also currently included within United Kingdom law. Use of the CC‑BY‑NC‑SA‑3.0‑IGO license may therefore mean that a user could inadvertently infringe the intellectual property that has naturally attached to the data that underpins the IEA net‑zero by 2050 study. This eventuality is clearly unsatisfactory, even if the prospect of litigation is low. Moreover, researchers cannot legitimately mix this IEA data with other data under CC‑BY‑4.0 licensing and reissue the aggregate. This certainly presents a major impediment to effective low carbon research. Notwithstanding, we welcome this move to make some of the data held by the IEA more accessible.

3 European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity,

4 The Open Energy Modelling Initiative is also covered on Wikipedia.


Thanks for the great document and initiative! Just signed and hope it will work.

Additional support

The following researchers also offer their support for the IEA open letter after the original letter was forwarded to the International Energy Agency. You can add your name by contacting @robbie.morrison but you need to be involved in energy systems research and a participant in this community.

Name Organization Role
Paul Behrens, PhD Leiden University, The Netherlands Assistant Professor of Environmental Change, Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)
Emile Chappin, PhD Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands Associate Professor on agent‑based modelling, energy transition, energy policy and Co‑Director of the TPM Energy Transition Lab
Leonard Göke Technical University of Berlin, Germany PhD student investigating energy system and power sector modeling
Fabian Hofmann, PhD Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Germany Post‑doctoral researcher working on energy system optimization with focus on the European power sector
Alexander Kies, PhD Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Germany Research Group Leader for energy systems and AI
Max Parzen University of Edinburgh, UK Director of PyPSA meets Africa/Earth and PhD student creating open data, open transition models, and open communities globally
Stefan Pfenninger, PhD Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands Assistant professor of energy systems modelling
Luis Ramirez Camargo, PhD Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium Senior Researcher specializing in spatiotemporal modelling of renewable energy systems
Laura Pérez-Sánchez ICTA‑UAB, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain PhD student researching the quantification and analysis of the nexus of energy, water, food, and other materials at the country and sector level
Johannes Schmidt, PhD University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria Associate Professor Energy and Resource Economics, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development
Wilfried van Sark, PhD Utrecht University, The Netherlands Professor at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development with a research focus on solar energy, smart grids, renewable electricity, and semiconductors
Wolf‑Peter Schill, PhD Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW Berlin), Germany Deputy Head of Department for Energy, Transport, and Environment
Tim Tröndle, PhD ETH Zurich, Switzerland Postdoctoral researcher on the trade‑offs of decarbonised energy supply
Jan Frederick Unnewehr Freiburg University, Germany Research Associate, Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering, specializing in the control and integration of grids
Marta Victoria, PhD Aarhus University, Denmark Professor researching on large‑scale energy systems with high renewable penetration using international energy data

Great initiative, article and linked articles! :heart_eyes: Opening up IEA data is will benefit all. There is more to win than to lose. It’s time to overcome these legacy constructs from times of expensive data stores and computers.

We would love to have some better validation data for Africa or other countries around the world…

Hi @MaxParzen I recently had some traffic with the US‑based Breakthrough Institute who also work in the global south. BI points out that the IEA gains most of its revenues from commercial organizations precisely because researchers in the global south cannot afford to pay for this data. Indeed, quoting from an IEA spokesperson in that The Guardian article:

“The bulk of these sales are to private energy companies, financial institutions and consultancies.”

Finally, just to head off the idea that the IEA could offer non‑commercial licenses for use by global south researchers — such data cannot be mixed with CC‑BY‑4.0 data and then circulated within our data commons for further interpretation and analysis. Indeed CC‑BY‑4.0 licensing and better IEA member country funding is the only workable solution.

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This posting provides a French translation of the original letter to the IEA.

The underlying markdown file is available for download and reuse: (8.6 KB)

The DOCX and PDF files are likewise available for download and reuse:

iea-open-letter-fr-no-signatories.tgz (544 KB)


To the extent possible under law, Malte Schäfer and Robbie Morrison have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Letter. This work is published from: Germany.

Lettre ouverte à l’Agence Internationale de l’Energie et à ses pays membres : Veuillez retirer les barrières payantes des données énergétiques mondiales et ajouter des licences ouvertes appropriées

Traduit de « Open letter to the International Energy Agency and its member countries: Please remove paywalls from global energy data and add appropriate open licenses ».

Pour contacter l’auteur coordinateur, merci d’envoyer un email à Malte Schäfer :

15 Décembre 2021

Dr Fatih Birol
Executive Director
International Energy Agency
Paris, France

Cher Dr Birol, chers membres de l’AIE, chers représentants des pays membres de l’AIE,

Nous, signataires, demandons que l’Agence Internationale de l’Energie (AIE) mette à disposition les ensembles de données qu’elle reçoit et rassemble de ses pays membres sous des licences ouvertes appropriées afin que ces informations puissent être librement utilisées et réutilisées.1 Un tel statut permettrait aux analystes indépendants des systèmes énergétiques et au public intéressé d’étudier et de mieux comprendre les futurs systèmes énergétiques zéro émission nette. Nous adresserons également cette même demande aux pays membres de l’AIE, aux pays membres associés et aux partenaires stratégiques dans l’espoir qu’ils puissent également influencer les politiques de l’AIE sur cette question particulière.

Dans cette lettre ouverte, nous passons en revue les arguments à l’appui de notre demande, fournissons un certain contexte juridique, présentons notre communauté et concluons par la liste des signataires.

Arguments clefs et solutions proposées

Roser and Ritchie (2021) ont déjà décrit les problèmes découlant du fait que l’AIE fournit ses données derrière des barrières payantes (ou paywalls). Ils proposent également une solution simple : mettre les données à la disposition du public et demander aux pays membres d’augmenter leurs contributions financières à l’AIE d’un montant modeste (Roser et Ritchie estiment à 5-6 millions de dollars US par an au total) pour compenser le manque à gagner lié aux licences de données propriétaires. Nous ne présentons donc ici qu’un bref résumé de la situation et de la solution proposée. Pour plus de contexte et de détails, merci de se référer directement à Roser et Ritchie (2021).

Trois décennies de recherche ont montré qu’en tant que société humaine mondiale, nous devons rapidement passer à des émissions nettes nulles - et finalement négatives - afin d’éviter les pires conséquences d’un changement climatique. La majorité des émissions anthropiques sont liées à la conversion et à l’utilisation de l’énergie sous une forme ou une autre, notamment par l’utilisation constante de combustibles fossiles. Outre le changement climatique, les processus de conversion énergétique peuvent contribuer de manière importante à d’autres types de dommages environnementaux et humains, notamment la pollution atmosphérique locale.

Des données de haute qualité sont nécessaires pour créer des voies de transition efficaces et efficientes vers une société zéro émission nette. Ces voies de transition reposent sur une analyse approfondie et une modélisation précise des systèmes actuels, notamment des systèmes énergétiques. La qualité de l’analyse et de la modélisation est toutefois déterminée de manière critique par les données utilisées pour décrire et caractériser les systèmes en question.

Des données de haute qualité existent déjà : elles sont publiées par l’AIE mais restent derrière des barrières payantes. Et bien que l’AIE soit une institution financée par des fonds publics, les chercheurs et autres tiers intéressés doivent normalement payer et consentir à la non-divulgation pour accéder aux données de l’AIE - alors qu’ils travaillent souvent eux-mêmes pour des institutions publiques, notamment des universités.

En fin de compte, le manque de disponibilité des données conduira à des voies de transition qui seront à la fois plus coûteuses et moins efficaces qu’elles n’auraient dû l’être. Il est également fort probable que le montant total des revenus auxquels l’AIE renonce, si elle décide d’arrêter de vendre ses données, n’ait aucun rapport avec le coût global des voies de transition sous optimales. Comme indiqué précédemment, Roser et Ritchie (2021) estiment que les droits de licence de l’AIE rapportent environ 5 à 6 millions USD par an. Les écarts de coûts entre les divers scénarios de transition vers le zéro émission nette seront généralement supérieurs de plusieurs ordres de grandeur à ceux des droits de licence de l’AIE.

Les avantages des données ouvertes vont au-delà des efforts d’atténuation du changement climatique. Le McKinsey Global Institute estime que pour les seuls secteurs de l’électricité, du pétrole et du gaz, et des transports, les données ouvertes pourraient créer une valeur économique de 1,3 à 2,0 billions USD par an (Manyika et al. 2013). Les données ouvertes permettent de réduire la duplication des efforts de recherche - moins de ressources étant gaspillées pour recréer les données payantes de l’AIE à partir de sources alternatives et souvent inférieures en qualité. Les données ouvertes réduisent les inégalités, puisque les chercheurs des pays et institutions les plus riches sont mieux placés pour se permettre d’acheter les données de l’AIE. La crédibilité et la reproductibilité de la recherche sont améliorées : des chercheurs indépendants peuvent vérifier ou contester des études basées sur des données communes. La transparence est renforcée en ce qui concerne l’élaboration des politiques publiques. Enfin, les données ouvertes améliorent la sensibilisation et l’engagement en réduisant les obstacles auxquels se heurtent les journalistes et le public pour accéder aux données et comprendre leurs implications. Il est donc dans l’intérêt de toutes et tous que les données de l’AIE soient ouvertes et librement accessibles.

La solution proposée est simple et comporte deux aspects : d’une part, l’AIE devrait supprimer les barrières payantes de ses ensembles de données et, d’autre part, ses pays membres devraient augmenter leurs contributions financières à l’AIE pour compenser la perte de revenus provenant des droits de licence sur les données. L’AIE joue un rôle important dans la transition énergétique en cours, il est donc évident que l’organisation a besoin d’un financement adéquat. Deuxièmement, les données libérées doivent ensuite être fournies avec des licences ouvertes appropriées pour permettre leur utilisation et leur réutilisation.

Les signataires demanderont également à leurs gouvernements respectifs d’augmenter leurs contributions financières à l’AIE. Les avantages résultant de la disponibilité et de l’ouverture des données, y compris des voies de transition plus rentables, sont très probablement supérieurs à la perte de recettes commerciales par un multiplicateur très important.

En résumé, la mise en libre accès de tous les ensembles de données passés et présents de l’AIE devrait permettre une transition plus rapide, moins coûteuse et plus équitable vers des systèmes énergétiques mondiaux zéro émission nette, créer une valeur économique supplémentaire, accroître la qualité et la quantité de la recherche, et améliorer la sensibilisation et l’engagement du public. Le coût de ce résultat est modeste, et nous pensons qu’il pourrait être facilement partagé entre les pays membres de l’AIE.

Comme le dit Hannah Richie (2021) dans son commentaire sur Nature : « Pour s’attaquer aux problèmes mondiaux, le monde doit créer des données ouvertes ». Nous, les signataires, approuvons sans réserve.

Aspects légaux

Le concept de données ouvertes est souvent mal compris. Nous passons donc en revue certains aspects juridiques dans cette section. Comme pour toute donnée pouvant être rendue publique de manière légitime, les données de l’AIE doivent être assorties d’une licence ouverte appropriée.

Nous soutenons le point de vue récent du régulateur Ofgem du Royaume-Uni selon lequel la licence Creative Commons CC-BY-4.0 pourrait être la plus appropriée (Ofgem 2021, note de bas de page 7), tandis que les métadonnées devraient être marquées domaine public via une licence CC0-1.0 pour minimiser toute friction associée au traitement en aval (Kreutzer 2011).

L’Union Européenne définit ainsi les données ouvertes dans le point 16 de la directive 2019/1024 sur les données ouvertes (Commission européenne 2019) : " Le concept de données ouvertes s’entend généralement comme désignant des données présentées dans un format ouvert qui peuvent être librement utilisées, réutilisées et partagées par tous quelle qu’en soit la finalité." Cette définition exclut clairement les interdictions d’usage commercial.

Nous notons que la clause 1 de l’accord de la COP26 de la UNFCCC de 2021 (UNFCCC 2021) stipule que l’accord : “Reconnaît l’importance des meilleures données scientifiques disponibles pour une action et une prise de décision efficaces en matière de climat”. Cela doit signifier que les principales statistiques énergétiques nationales pertinentes pour l’élaboration des politiques ne doivent pas se trouver derrière des barrières payantes ni être soumises à des contraintes juridiques concernant leur utilisation et leur réutilisation.

Nous notons que le paragraphe 15.2 du pacte PIDESC de l’ONU de 1966 (Pacte International relatif aux Droits Economiques, Sociaux et Culturels) se lit comme suit : "Les mesures que les Etats parties au présent Pacte prendront en vue d’assurer le plein exercice de ce droit devront comprendre celles qui sont nécessaires pour assurer le maintien, le développement et la diffusion de la science et de la culture. " Cela doit signifier que les pays membres qui fournissent des données à l’AIE ont l’obligation, en vertu du droit international, de fournir également ces mêmes statistiques énergétiques nationales aux analystes des systèmes énergétiques et au public intéressé à des fins de recherche et d’analyse indépendantes sous forme de données ouvertes sous licence appropriée.

Nous tenons à souligner que la situation actuelle est très préjudiciable à nos recherches sur les voies de décarbonisation rapide des systèmes énergétiques nationaux et régionaux et leurs mérites relatifs. Sur ce thème précis, nous aimerions pouvoir reproduire les résultats présentés dans la feuille de route historique de l’AIE (2021a) - mais nous en sommes empêchés parce que nous ne pouvons pas nous procurer, utiliser et réutiliser librement les ensembles de données sous-jacents.2

Enfin, en tant que communauté, nous serions plus qu’heureux d’assurer la liaison avec l’AIE sur des mesures pratiques pour aider à rendre ces informations importantes librement utilisables et réutilisables (Hirth 2020, Morrison 2018). Nous avons l’expérience de l’interaction avec la Commission Européenne, l’organisme cadre ENTSO-E,3 les régulateurs de marché, les opérateurs de marché et diverses entreprises énergétiques dans ce contexte.

Liste des signataires

Nous, les signataires, sommes des analystes de systèmes énergétiques et beaucoup d’entre nous sont actifs dans la communauté Open Energy Modelling Initiative (openmod).4 Néanmoins, nous signons ici simplement à titre individuel.

L’Open Energy Modelling Initiative a été créée en septembre 2014 pour promouvoir la modélisation open source et les données véritablement ouvertes. La communauté compte environ 900 membres abonnés à sa liste de diffusion et 800 dans le forum de discussion. À ce jour, la communauté openmod a organisé 14 ateliers, et notre prochain événement post-Covid est en cours de planification.

Les ressortissants des 18 pays suivants sont représentés dans la liste des signataires : Albanie, Autriche, Belgique, Canada, Danemark, France, Allemagne, Inde, Irlande, Italie, Pays-Bas, Nouvelle-Zélande, Norvège, Afrique du Sud, Espagne, Suisse, Royaume-Uni et Etats-Unis.

Comme indiqué, certains des signataires transmettront des copies de cette lettre ouverte à leurs gouvernements respectifs afin de mettre en évidence le problème dans un contexte national.

Merci de noter que les 37 signataires ne sont pas listés dans cette lettre pour des raisons de respect de vie privée.


Comission Européenne (26 Juin 2019). Directive (EU) 2019/1024 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on open data and the re-use of public sector information — PE/28/2019 REV/1. Official Journal of the European Union. L 172: 56–83.

AIE (Mai 2021a). Net zero by 2050: a roadmap for the global energy sector. Paris, France: IEA Publications.

AIE (Mai 2021b). Net zero by 2050 scenario — Data product. International Energy Agency (IEA). Paris, France.

Hirth, Lion (Janvier 2020). Open data for electricity modeling: legal aspects. Energy Strategy Reviews. 27: 100433. ISSN 2211-467X. doi:10.1016/j.esr.2019.100433. Open access.

Kreutzer, Till (2011). Validity of the Creative Commons Zero 1.0 universal public domain dedication and its usability for bibliographic metadata from the perspective of German copyright law. Berlin, Germany: Büro für Informationsrechtliche Expertise.

Manyika, James; Chui, Michael; Groves, Peter; Farrell, Diana; Van Kuiken, Steve; Almasi Doshi, Elizabeth (Octobre 2013). Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information. McKinsey Global Institute.

Morrison, Robbie (Avril 2018). Energy system modeling: public transparency, scientific reproducibility, and open development. Energy Strategy Reviews. 20: 49–63. ISSN 2211-467X. doi:10.1016/j.esr.2017.12.010. Open access.

Ofgem (15 Novembre 2021). Decision on Data Best Practice Guidance and Digitalisation Strategy and Action Plan Guidance. London, United Kingdom: Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem).

Roser, Max and Hannah Ritchie (Octobre 2021). The International Energy Agency publishes the detailed, global energy data we all need, but its funders force it behind paywalls: let’s ask them to change it. Our World in Data. Oxford, United Kingdom.

Ritchie, Hannah (Octobre 2021). Covid’s lessons for climate, sustainability and more from our World in Data. Nature. 598 (7879): 9–9. ISSN 1476-4687. doi:10.1038/d41586-021-02691-4.

Organisation des Nations Unies (Décembre 1966). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). New York, USA: United Nations Headquarters. United Nations General Assembly Resolution effective January 1976.

UNFCCC (13 Novembre 2021). Glasgow Climate Pact — COP26 — FCCC/PA/CMA/2021/L.16. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and New York, USA: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Cited document notated “Advanced version”.

Notes de bas de page

1 Le contenu de ce document est publié sous une licence Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (domaine publique). Les noms des signataires ne doivent pas être reproduits séparément de ce document afin de respecter leur vie privée et de conserver le contexte.

2 Dans le cas de l’étude sur le zéro émissions nettes d’ici 2050 (AIE 2021a), les ensembles de données sous-jacents (AIE 2021b) sont, après enregistrement, disponibles sous une licence Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0-IGO. L’utilisation d’une licence publique établie est un progrès évident, mais ce choix de licence particulier est, à notre avis, inadéquat à deux égards. Premièrement, l’attribut non commercial (NC) signifie que la licence ne peut pas être qualifiée d’ouverte selon les définitions établies pour les données ouvertes (par exemple, le considérant le point 16 de la Commission européenne (2019), cité dans son intégralité ailleurs dans ce document). Deuxièmement, seules les licences Creative Commons à partir de la version 4.0 peuvent être utilisées pour les données. Les versions antérieures des licences, telles que la licence CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0-IGO en question, ne renoncent pas aux droits sur les bases de données 96/9/CE permis par le droit de l’Union Européenne et également inclus actuellement dans le droit du Royaume-Uni. L’utilisation de la licence CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0-IGO peut donc signifier qu’un utilisateur pourrait, par inadvertance, porter atteinte à la propriété intellectuelle qui est naturellement attachée aux données qui sous-tendent l’étude de l’AIE sur le scénario zero émissions pour 2050. Cette éventualité n’est évidemment pas satisfaisante, même si la perspective de litige est faible. En outre, les chercheurs ne peuvent pas légitimement mélanger ces données de l’AIE avec d’autres données sous licence CC-BY-4.0 et rééditer l’agrégat. Cela constitue certainement un obstacle majeur à une recherche efficace sur la reduction des émissions. Néanmoins, nous saluons cette initiative visant à rendre plus accessibles certaines des données détenues par l’AIE.

3 European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity,

4 L’Open Energy Modelling Initiative est également définie sur Wikipedia.

This was the response from the BMWi (Germany) [in German]:

Sehr geehrter Herr Schäfer,

vielen Dank für Ihre Nachricht.

Die IEA wurde im Jahr 1974 als Reaktion auf die erste Ölkrise mit dem Ziel der Gewährleistung einer störungsfreien Ölversorgung gegründet. Seit dem hat sich die IEA stetig weiterentwickelt und ist zu einem zentralen Forum für internationalen Erfahrungsaustausch und Politikberatung zu nahezu allen Energiepolitikbereichen geworden. Regelmäßige IEA-Länderprüfungen mit energiepolitischen Empfehlungen sowie der jährlich erscheinende World Energy Outlook (WEO) als das umfassende internationale energiepolitische Referenzdokument mit einem aktuellen Prognosehorizont bis zum Jahr 2050 sind besonders einflussreiche Publikationen der IEA, die weltweit bei der Formulierung nationaler Energiepolitiken hohe Beachtung finden. In diesem Jahr hat die IEA ferner einen Bericht zu “Net-Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector” veröffentlicht, der dem globalen Energiesektor einen Weg zur Treibhausgasneutralität weisen soll.

Die IEA ist vor diesem Hintergrund bestrebt, den Datenzugang für alle zu verbessern und auszuweiten, und hat daher in den letzten Jahren eine neue Richtlinie eingeführt, um immer mehr Daten und Analysen kostenlos zur Verfügung zu stellen.

Diese Daten umfassen auch Länder- und Sektordaten sowie -projektionen. In diesem Jahr hat die IEA ferner alle ihre Berichte und Analysen, einschließlich der Net Zero 2050-Roadmap und der dazugehörigen Prognosen sowie des WEO, kostenfrei zugänglich gemacht.

Das kostenpflichtige Datenangebot ist - neben den Mitgliedsbeiträgen - ein wesentlicher Bestandteil des operativen Budgets, das es der IEA ermöglicht, ihre wesentlichen Mandate zu erfüllen.

Der Großteil der Einnahmen stammt von privaten Energieunternehmen, Finanzinstituten und Beratungsunternehmen. Die IEA bietet der Presse kostenlosen Zugang zu ihren Daten und Analysen und bietet gemeinnützigen Organisationen, Forschern und Wissenschaftlern entweder ebenfalls kostenlosen Zugang oder hohe Rabatte an.

Dies hält die Bundesregierung für einen geeigneten Ansatz, um den Interessen aller Beteiligten Rechnung zu tragen.

Bitte bleiben Sie gesund und achten auf sich und andere.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Ihr Team vom Bürgerdialog

Not quite the response we had hoped for. Let’s see how other governments respond.


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Hand checked (by highly experienced native-speaking energy policy analyst) translation of the above letter:

The IEA was founded in 1974 in response to the first oil crisis with the aim of ensuring a disruption-free oil supply. Since then, the IEA has steadily evolved and become a central forum for international exchange of experience and policy advice on virtually all energy policy areas. Regular IEA country reviews with energy policy recommendations, as well as the annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) as the comprehensive international energy policy reference document with a current forecast horizon up to 2050, are particularly influential IEA publications that are highly regarded worldwide in the formulation of national energy policies. This year, the IEA also published a report on “Net-Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” which aims to set the global energy sector on a path to greenhouse gas neutrality.

Against this backdrop, the IEA is committed to improving and expanding data access for all, and has therefore introduced a new policy in recent years to make more and more data and analysis available free of charge.

These data include country and sector data and projections. This year, the IEA also made all of its reports and analyses, including the Net Zero 2050 roadmap and associated projections and the WEO, available free of charge.

The fee-based data offering — along with membership dues — is a key component of the operating budget that enables the IEA to fulfill its essential mandates.

Most of the revenue comes from private energy companies, financial institutions, and consulting firms. The IEA provides free access to its data and analysis to the press and offers either free access or deep discounts to nonprofit organizations, researchers, and academics.

The German government considers this to be an appropriate approach to accommodate the interests of all stakeholders.

An analysis, by @robbie.morrison, of the pratical legal and ethical questions raised in the above response can be found here:

Copy of letter sent to European Commission.
Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license
PDF version: european-commission-dg-ener-leta.02.pdf (50.8 KB)
Please recycle the text as you see fit   :green_heart:

07 January 2022

Kadri Simson
DG ENER: Directorate-General for Energy

Ditte Juul Jørgensen
DG ENER: Directorate-General for Energy

Cristina Lobillo Borrero
ENER.A: Energy Policy: Strategy and Coordination
DG ENER: Directorate-General for Energy

European Commission
1049 Bruxelles/Brussel

Re: Commission must support International Energy Agency transition to open data

Dear Ms Simson, Ms Jørgensen, Ms Lobillo Borrero

This letter concerns the national energy data that the International Energy Agency (IEA) collects and distributes. Recent reports (Ritchie and Roser 2022) indicate that the IEA have agreed in principle to publish that data as open and it is now up to IEA member countries — and primarily those in the industrialized world — to match the consequent lost sales revenues. The Commission clearly has a tight relationship with the IEA (IEA 2021). I do not know if the Commission can contribute funding as well — although if it can, it should.

What I do know is that it is vital that this information emerge from behind its paywalls and be properly licensed for use and re‑use.

For example, at least two open energy system modeling teams have begun work in Africa and it is imperative that this IEA data be both available and open in this context. Those projects include U4RIA and PyPSA‑meets‑Africa.

That same sentiment applies to analysis for European countries too. Indeed I suggest the Commission’s Fit for 55 program is more likely to flounder if its policy prescriptions are not fully transparent and reproducible. Moreover citizens can potentially contribute to and utilize the analysis and will more easily uncover, develop, and implement local net‑zero solutions if the necessary data is fully open.

I write as an energy system modeler and participant in the Open Energy Modelling Initiative (openmod) community. I have worked with open source energy system models since 2003. And in 2018, I published on the need for fully open energy system modeling for reasons of open science and transparent public policy (Morrison 2018). More recently, I have been promoting open data and open data standards — the latter being at least of equal importance.

I was also instrumental in helping organize the open letter to the IEA (Schäfer et al dated 8 December 2021) from the openmod community seeking open data — as recorded here (my handle is @robbie.morrison):

Please give this matter urgent consideration. The next IEA member country meeting is apparently scheduled for 02 February 2022.

yours sincerely, Robbie Morrison


IEA (30 March 2021). European Commission and IEA pull together for net zero — Press release. International Energy Agency (IEA). Paris, France.

Morrison, Robbie (April 2018). “Energy system modeling: public transparency, scientific reproducibility, and open development”. Energy Strategy Reviews. 20: 49–63. ISSN 2211-467X. doi:10.1016/j.esr.2017.12.010. Open access.

Ritchie, Hannah and Max Roser (6 January 2022). The IEA wants to make their data available to the public — now it is on governments of the world’s rich countries to make this happen. Our World in Data. Open access.

Schäfer, Malte et al (8 December 2021). Open letter to the International Energy Agency and its member countries: please remove paywalls from global energy data and add appropriate open licenses. Schäfer is the coordinating author. Online copy. Open access.

I will endeavor to keep this posting up‑to‑date. The revision history can be inspected by clicking on the either orange or gray pencil icon located above and right. Note too that you can link to individual headings within the posting by mousing over the heading, then the link icon, and finally clicking to bring up the required URL.

Release: 09

Summary of events

The first two sections provide some background. The final section covers some unanswered questions.

The International Energy Agency

The International Energy Agency (IEA) was established in 1974 in the wake of the 1993 oil crisis and is headquartered in Paris, France. The location is material because this will, in the first instance, determine which national law governs the datasets that the IEA makes available to the public.

The IEA collects national energy statistics from its 30 member countries and from elsewhere and each year publishes the World Energy Outlook under full copyright. The IEA also releases specialist reports from time‑to‑time, such as this (commendable) net‑zero roadmap:

Data context

Until recently, the IEA policy on the data it collects and processes was to hold that data behind a paywall and then on‑sell it to commercial entities to generate revenue — a practice that naturally prevents important information from reaching researchers, NGOs, and citizens located in both the global north and the global south investigating carbon mitigation options for their energy sectors and allied sectors.

On a very few occasions, the IEA did also release supporting datasets under non‑open public licenses. For instance and related to the publication cited immediately above:

In this particular case, the datasets are available at no charge under a Creative Commons CC‑BY‑NC‑SA‑3.0‑IGO license for non‑commercial use — a puzzling choice of legal instrument for at least three reasons that lie beyond the scope of this posting, except to say that the offered license is legally immiscible with the well established CC‑BY‑4.0 license and that use of CC‑BY‑NC‑SA‑3.0‑IGO effectively creates a license‑bound data silo.

Initial campaign

Hannah Ritchie from Oxford University and head of research at Our World in Data (OWID) started the ball rolling on open data with a scientific letter and a follow‑up blog:

The blog encouraged readers to contact their energy ministries and seek both an open data policy and additional funding to make up for the resulting shortfall in revenue from lost data sales. The annual IEA “funding gap” was estimated by Roser and Ritchie (2021) to be “5 to 6 million EUR” (5.7–6.8 million USD).

Openmod participants add support

After reading the OWID blog, @MalteSchaefer, Braunschweig, Germany coordinated an open letter to the IEA and its member countries — signed by 37 researchers who also participate in the informal Open Energy Modelling Initiative (openmod) community. The openmod numbers something like 400 energy system analysts. That letter:

The public version with some names omitted (due to a mix up when processing consents) and some names added after‑the‑fact is located at the start of this thread — a total of 52 energy researchers lent support to the open letter:

A day or so later, The Guardian newspaper ran the following story on that open letter:

Several signatories on the open letter also wrote to their national governments and, to date, two have received replies, namely from ministries in Germany (above) and Switzerland. In both cases, the respective ministries supported the pre‑policy-change status quo of paywalled data and the ad‑hoc use of non‑commercial public licenses. That latter strategy that can provide for limited transparency but not for unrestricted modification, circulation, and re‑use. In other words, a strategy that clearly fails the doctrines of open science, as articulated here (under path 2):

IEA board endorses open data

An energy market analysis website was the first to report on an updated IEA policy decision on data provisioning (not confirmed by other sources at the time of writing, but I expect that will change soon):

That webpage also states that executive director Fatih Birol proposed the move and that he had written to IEA staff saying:

I am hopeful that we may be able to find a creative solution with the support of several members and large philanthropists that could permit us to make it a public good, in the interests of boosting market transparency and promoting good energy/climate decision making

Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser later blogged about this change of IEA data policy — a policy that is of course provisional and subject to approval by IEA member countries:

Increasing media coverage

Mid‑January brought increasing media coverage — the story being picked up, in the main, by specialist websites. For instance:

In that particular article, Barry McMullin, who supported the original open letter, is quoted as saying:

Barry McMullin is an engineering professor at Dublin City University in Ireland. He told Climate Home News: “Our focus is on energy system decarbonisation at a national level. An element of that is trying to downscale IEA global scenarios and figure out whether or how well they align with our more bottom up/local national analysis … having unencumbered access to the IEA datasets (and ultimately to their models!) will certainly facilitate us in this kind of study.”

Campaign shifts to United States

In mid‑January, the campaign migrated to the United States, led by Adam Stein from the Breakthrough Institute. A similar open letter was drafted for US‑based non‑governmental organizations to sign on in support:

Data provision

Given that the IEA member countries do commit to CC‑BY‑4.0 data licensing, the question then arises as to whether the IEA should develop its own public‑facing data portal. Or whether an open science hub — perhaps located in Europe or the United Kingdom — would provide a better venue? Irrespective, considerable public money will be required to variously initiate and stock a data portal. IEA member countries should consider also covering this expenditure at their upcoming meeting.

IEA member country decision (forthcoming)

The next meeting of the IEA member countries is scheduled for 2–3 February 2022. And that meeting, known as an “IEA Ministerial”, will likely decide whether to either endorse or reject this new policy on open data from the IEA board. For background on that forthcoming meeting:

Unanswered legal questions

There has been no indication of which licenses the IEA board proposes to use. But I would strongly favor CC‑BY‑4.0 for the datasets themselves and CC0‑1.0 for associated metadata and including cataloging information.

It should also be noted that the IEA datasets released under any kind of public license are highly unlikely to attract intellectual property protection under United States law in any case. That take is based on US Copyright Office (2017) §727.1 (page 47) and surrounding points:

The advice therein supports the view that once IEA datasets become publicly available within the United States, they are effectively public domain and any restrictions — say on commercial usage — cannot be legally enforced under US law. Furthermore, those datasets can then be legitimately added to and made available from a server located within the United States under CC0‑1.0 notices and used to supply researchers in other jurisdictions, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Africa for instance.

That assessment, albeit speculative, means that the “dual” model of paywalled data and non‑commercial public data (as advocated by, among others, the German BMWi ministry here) cannot work in practice. Commercial organizations would simply opt to source from the previously described public server. And indeed, material on that public server is more likely to be subject to scrutiny, curated, better documented, and also translated into other data formats, and — as a consequence — of generally higher quality and re‑usability than the original source.

The IEA may have a weak case against our hypothetical server operator under French law, but I doubt if it would embark on civil litigation in this context. I say that because a roughly analogous situation exists between the ENTSO‑E Transparency Platform and the US‑based World Resources Institute (WRI) and those facts have not resulted in legal action under Belgium law.

Of course, if the IEA does opt for CC‑BY‑4.0 licensing in the first place, this would have much the same effect (and would be preferable). It is now up to IEA member countries to support the recent (and laudable) reversal on IEA data policy by Fatih Birol and the IEA board.

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Copy of letter sent to IEA chair and three vice‑chairs overseeing the February 2022 meeting in Pittsburgh, USA. The letter pushes for open data to be prioritized so that IEA member countries can support the IEA board and allow the IEA to make genuinely open all the data it is able to. Data policy should also be covered in the final communiqué. Recipients of the letter:

  • Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy, United States of America
  • Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Australia
  • Tinne Van der Straeten, Minister of Energy, Belgium
  • Dan Jørgensen, Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilities, Denmark

Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license
PDF version: iea-pittsburgh-leta-2022.02.pdf (54.9 KB)
Please recycle the text as you see fit   :green_heart:

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