A report prepared for the NASA Applied Science Program and authored by economists at The Brattle Group finds that the use of NASA's solar and meteorological data services has greatly contributed to the U.S. and international goals of achieving greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources. The study, which was presented at a workshop hosted by IEEE's Committee on Earth Observation, finds the economic value of the datasets to be between $79 million and $790 million worldwide, with higher ranges possible.
NASA engaged The Brattle Group to evaluate the socioeconomic value of its publicly available satellite and modeled-derived data services, specifically the Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy (SSE) and Prediction of Worldwide Energy Resource (POWER) datasets. Brattle's review of the datasets, combined with a number of expert user interviews, indicate that solar and meteorological data are utilized by the energy industry in several ways. The most significant application of the data is in the assessment of the potential value of proposed renewable power project sites and the evaluation of the performance of existing renewable power generation projects. The second important application focuses on analyzing and benchmarking the energy consumption levels of residential and commercial buildings.
Given these industry applications, the Brattle economists evaluated the potential value of NASA's SSE and POWER datasets by relying on existing RETScreen® impact analysis and direct input from RETScreen® staff. RETScreen® is a renewable energy decision-making platform that uses NASA's data and is maintained by the Canadian government. The existing impact analysis relied on RETScreen® users' input on value for the downstream services associated with the data. Based on that input alone, the authors found that NASA data services have contributed between $79 million and $790 million value worldwide between 1998 and 2012.
The report also qualitatively summarized the value provided by the SSE and POWER datasets and data services based on feedback gathered from expert users. The benefits include the fact that the data:
1. Consist of a large selection of meteorological variables in a single source
2. Provide a comprehensive global geographical coverage
3. Are derived from consistent methodology, measurements, and spatial and temporal coverage
4. Contain convenient formats and are accessible online
5. Include derivative variables
6. Can facilitate site selection and post-completion renewable project performance analysis.
"Based on these six areas of benefits associated with the SSE and POWER datasets and the initial estimates of economic value, we find that NASA's datasets and data services offer significant value in the renewable and energy efficiency fields," said Judy Chang, a principal of The Brattle Group and co-author of the report. "Given the recent technological changes in the energy industry and advances in climate science, the type and quality of data parameters provided by NASA are of increasing importance."
Ms. Chang and Brattle associate Kamen Madjarov presented the findings of the report. Their presentation, "Estimating the Socioeconomic Value of Satellite-Derived Solar & Meteorological Data: A Case Study and Discussion of Tradeoffs," is available at www.brattle.com.
The Brattle Group provides consulting services and expert testimony in economics and finance to corporations, law firms, and public agencies worldwide. Areas of expertise include antitrust and competition, valuation and damages, utility regulatory policy and ratemaking, and regulation and planning in network industries. For more information, please visit www.brattle.com.