Fall 2015 Feature Story

A Spotlight on The LA Energy Atlas

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We were excited to see the launch of the LA Energy Atlas in late September and got the inside scoop from Zoe Elizabeth, Associate Director of The California Center for Sustainable Communities and the Project Manager of the LA Energy Atlas. Here’s the inside scoop from Zoe:

What is the LA Energy Atlas and how does it differ from other energy-use databases?

The LA Energy Atlas is a first of its kind interactive website can be used to inform energy planning and research in Los Angeles and throughout California. The site provides access to the most comprehensive and disaggregated energy database publicly available.  All data is downloadable and protects privacy.  The website is powered by a geospatial relational database of over 500 million records that connects address level energy consumption to building characteristics from the county assessor database and census information. Other databases use modeled data or provide data based on ‘opt-in.’ The database underlying the public-facing website is geographically based and thus any information with a geographic component can be overlaid.

How did the project get started? Who are the key project partners?

The Energy Atlas, developed by the UCLA California Center for Sustainable Communities (CCSC), grew out of a project funded by the California Energy Commission to map energy and other resource flows across Los Angeles County.  The website was funded by the Southern California Regional Energy Network(SoCal REN) and the County of Los Angeles’ Office of Sustainability, it has benefited from the support and input of a number of partners including the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC), and the Energy Coalition (TEC), as well as interest from a broad range of policy makers, energy experts and program administrators.

What is your vision for how this tool will be used and what it can help accomplish?

California has long been a leader in energy policy. The recent passing of several energy bills, in particular, SB 350 and AB 802 underscore the State’s continued commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the efficiency of buildings. Although not as well known as other aspects, both of these bills require energy consumption and energy savings to be mapped to meters and buildings. This has the potential to revolutionize energy programs and evaluation in the state. At the same time, the legislation did not develop a database that could be implemented, fortunately with the Energy Atlas, and the address level database behind it, Los Angeles is ready to begin implementing the kinds of data-driven policy and program tracking envisioned by the bill, years before other parts of the state will be able to do so.

In addition, the Energy Atlas provides every city in LA County with the building energy data needed to develop a community greenhouse gas inventory. Acquiring and organizing this data is one of the most resource-intensive aspects of community greenhouse gas accounting and thus the Atlas now and as it is updated overtime can save municipal governments money while providing them with access to reliable and relevant data.

The Energy Atlas provides the needed building energy use data across Los Angeles County to develop effective and targeted programs to reduce building energy use.  For example, the site shows energy consumption by size of building that cities can use to set building disclosure ordinances. It enables stakeholders and researchers to analyze and understand energy consumption by sociodemographic characteristics, climate, building attributes, building use and other variables to gain insights on the impacts and benefits of different investments. 

Are there any plans in the works to develop similar tools for other communities in California?

Yes, we are currently planning to expand the database to other Southern California counties and are in discussions with other regions as well.

Interested in Learning More about the Atlas?

Join the Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative (SEEC) and Alliance of Regional Collaborative for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA) for a webinar on 11/16: ARCCA Learning Session: The Ins and Outs of the LA Energy Atlas. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about what it took to get this project started, challenges the project team faced when developing this tool, how to navigate and utilize the Atlas, and what it will take for an atlas to be developed for your community. We’re excited to have Atlas project leads, Dr. Stephanie Pincetl and Zoe Elizabeth from the California Center for Sustainable Communities (CCSC), speak on the webinar and answer questions.

[textblock align=”center”]Register now for the 11/16 ARCCA Learning Session: The Ins and Outs of the LA Energy Atlas[/textblock]