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Startup develops world map to understand electricity


Hoping to make easier to understand how actions affect the environment, Danish startup Tomorrow recently developed a new open-source tool called the Electricity Map, which provides real-time data, free to all, about global energy use and CO2 emissions.

Danish-French computer expert Olivier Corradi assembled a small team of energy and IT experts to develop the map, which became available last year after five months of development, first with only information from EU countries. Now it has expanded, with data from all over the world.

Tomorrow’s goal is “to help humanity reach a sustainable state of existence by quantifying, and making widely accessible, the impact of every choice we make”, Corradi explains.

“Our job is to deal with a lot of data, and to reduce the complexity lying therein in order to display, in a simple and beautiful manner, insights and ways to change your behavior for the better,” he added.

The Electricity Map is an interactive display of the real-time carbon footprint of mains electricity supply. You can click on a country to find out how much electricity comes from coal, solar, nuclear power or other sources. You can also overlay wind and sunshine on the map to see where the most potential for renewable energy is.

In Europe, data for the map is provided by the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E) but it is often supplemented by other information, for example, from French network operator RTE. Similar is the case in other countries, where several official sources are used.

The developers have made the tool open-source software so that anyone can access and improve it as they see fit. Corradi said that this approach has “worked well”. The map uses a conversion formula provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in order to grade a country’s CO2 emissions, using a sliding scale from green to black.

Looking at the potential of the tool, Tomorrow recently developed a second initiative called C02 Signal, which uses machine learning on the data in Electricity Map to make forecasts for the next day. Software developers can set up smart devices to automatically collect information from CO2 Signal and use it to plan their electricity consumption based on when carbon emissions are lowest.

One pilot project based on CO2 Signal allows the energy-intensive task of heating swimming pools to be done when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Future projects might, for example, help electric vehicles plan when to charge.

Tomorrow has ambitious plans for the future. To start, the Electricity Map will keep growing on a global scale, with more countries joining. Eventually, Corradi hopes to automatically infer your total personal carbon footprint. This footprint would be based on every aspect of your lifestyle, including purchases such as food and transport.