Boost Your Energy

Energy at Duke

With the launch of the Duke University Energy Intiative (EI) several years ago, the Center for Data and Visualization Sciences (CDVS) has seen an increased demand for all sorts of data and information related to energy generation, distribution, and pricing.  The EI is a university-wide, interdisciplinary hub that advances an accessible, affordable, reliable, and clean energy system.  It involves researchers and students from the Pratt School of Engineering, the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Duke School of Law, the Fuqua School of Business, and departments in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.

The creation of the EI included development of an Undergraduate Certificate in Energy and Environment and an Undergraduate Minor in Energy Engineering in the Pratt School.  An Energy Data Analytics PhD Student Fellows program is affiliated with the EI’s Energy Data Analytics Lab, and  Duke’s BassConnections program includes several Energy & Environment teams led by the Energy Initiative.

The EI website provides links to energy-related data sources, particularly datasets that have proven useful in Duke energy research projects. We will discuss below some more key sources for finding energy-related data.

Energy resources and potentials

The sources for locating energy data will vary depending on the type of energy and the spot on the source-to-consumption continuum that interests you.

The US Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) Energy Information Administration (EIA) has a nice outline of energy sources, with explanations of each, in their Energy Explained web pages. These include nonrenewable sources such as petroleum, gas, gas liquids, coal, and nuclear.  The EIA also discusses a number of renewable sources such as hydropower (e.g., dams, tidal, or wave action), biomass (e.g., waste or wood), biofuels (e.g., ethanol or biodiesel), wind, geothermal, and solar. Hydrogen is another fuel source discussed on these pages.

Besides renewability, a you might be interested in a source’s carbon footprint. Note that some of the sources the EIA lists as renewables may be carbon creating (such as biomass or biofuels), and some non-renewables may be carbon neutral (such as nuclear).  Any type of energy source clearly has environmental implications, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has a discussion of the Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy Technologies.

The US Geological Survey’s Energy Resources Program measures resource potentials for all types of energy sources.  The Survey is a great place to find data relating to their traditional focus of fossil fuel reserves, but also for some renewables such as geothermal.  The EIA provides access to GIS layers relating to energy, not only reserves and renewable potentials, but also infrastructure layers.

The DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is well known as a repository of technical reports, but it also hosts the DOE Data Explorer. This includes hidden gems like the REPLICA database (Rooftop Energy Potential of Low Income Communities in America), which has geographic granularity down to the Census Tract level.

For more on renewables, check out the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), which disseminates GIS data relating to renewable energy in the US (e.g., wind speeds, wave energy, solar potential), along with some international data. The DoE’s Open Data Catalog is also particularly strong on datasets (tabular and GIS) relating to renewables.  The data ranges from very specific studies to US nationwide data.

REexplorer, showing wind speed in Kenya

For visualizing energy-related map layers from selected non-US countries, the Renewable Energy Data Explorer (REexplorer) provides an online mapping tool. Most layers can be downloaded as GIS files. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) also has statistics on renewables. Besides downloadable data, summary visualizations can be viewed online using Tableau Dashboards.

Price and production data

The US DOE “Energy Economy” web pages will introduce you to all things relating to the economics of energy, and their EIA (mentioned above) is the main US source for fossil fuel pricing, from both the production and the retail standpoint.

Internationally, the OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) collects supply, demand, trade, production and consumption data, including price and tax data, relating to oil, gas, and coal, as well as renewables.  In the OECD iLibrary go to Statistics tab to find many detailed IEA databases as well as PDF book series such as World Energy Balances, World Energy Outlook, and World Energy Statistics. For more international data (particularly in the developing world), you might want to try  This includes geospatial data and a lot on renewables, especially solar potential.

Finally, a good place to locate tabular data of all sorts is the database ProQuest Statistical Insight. It indexes publications from government agencies at all levels, IGOs and NGOs, and trade associations, usually providing the data tables or links to the data.

Infrastructure (Generation, Transportation/Distribution, and Storage)

ArcGIS Pro using EPA’s eGRID data

Besides the EIA’s GIS layers relating to energy, mentioned above, another excellent source for US energy infrastructure data is the Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD), which includes datasets on energy infrastructure from many government agencies. These include geospatial data layers (GIS data) for pipelines, power plants, electrical transmission and more. For US power generation, the Environmental Protection Agency has their Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID).  eGRID data includes the locations of all types of US electrical power generating facilities, including fuel used, generation capacity, and detailed effluent data. For international power plant data, the World Resources Institute’s (WRI’s) Global Power Plant Database includes data on around 30,000 plants, and some of WRI’s other datasets also relate to energy topics.

Energy storage can include the obvious battery technologies, but also pumped hydroelectric systems and even more novel schemes.  The US DoE has a Global Energy Storage Database with information on “grid-connected energy storage projects and relevant state and federal policies.”


For data or information relating to individual companies in the energy sector, as well as for more qualitative assessments of industry segments, you can begin with the library’s Company and Industry Research Guide. This leads to some of the key business sources that the Duke Libraries provide access to.

Trade Associations

Trade associations that promote the interests of companies in particular industries can provide effective leads to data, particularly when you’re having trouble locating it from government agencies and IGOs/NGOs. If they don’t provide data or much other information on their websites, be sure to contact them to see what they might be willing to share with academic researchers. Most of the associations below focus on the United States, but some are global in scope.

These are just a few of the sources and strategies for locating data on energy.  For more assistance, please contact the Center for Data and Visualization Sciences:

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