Physics and Astronomy


Big Data expertise at Climate Emergency Hackathon

Edward Salakpi, a research student with DISCnet (the Data Intensive Science Centre in SEPnet) and member of the Data Intensive Science Centre (DISCUS) at Sussex, attended a Climate Emergency Hackathon before lockdown, organised by Valtech UK, a digital innovations firm in London.

The aim of the two-day hackathon was to collate data across industries from energy providers and government institutions for in-depth analysis and to propose methods for decarbonising the UK through the promotion of renewable sources of energy.

The event brought together UK data scientists, software UX design experts and energy industry experts, giving access to data sets from Ofgem, Met Office, UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ordnance Survey, Eltralink and Elexon.

Teams investigated data on a number of hypotheses such as "How could we decarbonise the UK within 5, 10, 15 years? What proportion of renewables would make up the energy sector to help us do this?", "We need more renewable sources of electricity in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Where should we build these to avoid the most impact on biodiversity?" and "Can you understand the patterns of change on biodiversity with the projected increase in temperature?".

Edward's group focused on understanding the relationships between various energy supply types, consumption and weather for each post code area in the UK. The goal was to find a ratio to show how efficiently different areas of the UK use their energy. This could then be used to encourage further efficiency through competition between regions and incentives such as price reductions.

Given that the data provided was collected for other purposes, it’s perhaps not unsurprising that Edward’s group found it couldn’t be used to create a suitable ratio as intended. However, they were able to use their time to offer advice about how such data should be collected in the future, itself a valuable outcome and the energy company are planning to improve their collection methods as a result.

As well as sharing their own expertise, participants took part in a series of guided activities designed to help them develop invaluable skills for collaborative problem solving. "This was very useful as it enabled team members to open up more and share ideas", said Edward.

Participants “found the Hackathon very useful for understanding how energy is supplied across the UK and how the weather influences production”.

Find out more about DISCUS and DISCnet:


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By: Justine Charles
Last updated: Wednesday, 27 May 2020