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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 60a - Thursday, 18 December 2008
International Energy Agency’s Databases of Policies and Measures
By Sara Moarif, IEA
Generally touted as “the rich countries’ energy watchdog,” the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) has for many years being doing more than crunching numbers about oil production and greenhouse gas emissions.  The IEA undertakes policy analysis on a wide variety of subjects, and engages in outreach and cooperation activities with many countries that see a benefit in such collaboration. Sharing information on issues, policies and best practices aimed at ensuring a sustainable energy future are a core part of the IEA’s mandate.

Forming part of the IEA’s continued effort to support decision-makers, policy experts, researchers, the business community and the general public, are its policies and measures databases.

Background to the IEA’s policies and measures databases

Since 1999, the IEA has collaborated with its member country delegates to collect and classify energy-related policies and measures designed to mitigate climate change, to promote energy efficiency, and to stimulate renewable energy.

Starting in 2003, these book-form collections were converted into three online databases – the Addressing Climate Change Policies and Measures database, the Global Renewable Energy Policies and Measures database and the Energy Efficiency Policies and Measures database. This online service, which is available to the public free of charge, allows users to search for policy instruments according to various criteria.

These databases arguably represent the most comprehensive collection of national policies on energy-related climate change mitigation1, energy efficiency and renewable energy policies in IEA member countries2. It also contains information on some non-member jurisdictions, namely, Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. The Global Renewable Energy Policies and Measures database also currently includes several non-member countries that are members of the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition.

Together, these databases are among the most popular IEA websites and are used by individuals from government, the private sector and academia, among others. The databases are regularly cited in reports and articles produced by research institutions, international organisations, the media and NGOs. The database is also used by the IEA itself. For example, information contained in the three databases feeds into a variety of IEA policy analysis publications, in-depth country reviews, and the World Energy Outlook.

Unique features of the databases

A key and unique future of the IEA’s policies and measures databases is that entries are generally reviewed by IEA member country delegates. The opportunity to review them is provided twice a year, and different delegates review the databases according to their area of expertise, either in renewable energy, energy efficiency, or climate change policy.

This review process allows the databases to contain information not easily accessible by the wider public, either because such information is not easily available online or is not available in English. It also allows certain details on policies to be included. Information on the results or impact of policy is included in the database whenever possible and available; this is often the kind of information that has been provided by delegates. In general, the database entries are meant to provide a concise summary of policies, about which publicly-available information can be spread out across a variety of sources and is therefore time-consuming to assemble. The delegate review process aims to ensure that information contained in the databases is up-to-date and accurate.

Another useful feature of the databases is that they are “historical.” Policies that are no longer in force are kept in the databases. Should a policy or measure be ended or superseded, this is included in the database with links to more recent policies. This allows for comparisons of policies across different time periods, as well as insights into which types of policies were abandoned, and which were further strengthened.

Using the databases

The databases are designed to allow users to search using a combination of different criteria including country, year, policy status, policy type and policy target. The latter two categories are the most used, as they allow for specific searches and various comparisons, and can provide interesting information. Included within the policy types are overarching energy strategy or climate change mitigation frameworks, strategic planning and regulatory reform. Users can also search according to policy type, for example government-private sector voluntary agreements, emissions trading schemes, standards, labels, feed-in tariffs and fiscal incentives. One can also search for policies according to their target, such as energy production, specific renewable energy technologies, buildings, and appliances.

The databases are most often consulted by users for examples of policies targeting certain sectors or technologies, examples of what can be considered best-policy practice, as well as to get a sense of what policies a specific country has implemented. Using the various features of the database potentially allows for more interesting types of comparisons and analyses. Combining information on policy types and targets allows one to see, for example, that the number of climate change mitigation policies using tradable permits peaked in 2005 and 2006, and is starting to rise again in 2008 as compared to 2007. One can also see that incentives and subsidies targeting buildings, either for stimulating energy efficiency or use of renewable energy, have been steadily increasing and rose sharply in 2008. The databases are thus one tool among many others that can be used to get a sense of trends in policy development, both in the types of instruments used as well as evolving priority areas for countries.

A long-running IEA project, the policies and measures databases are continually evolving, always aiming to be more comprehensive, to cover more countries, and to be increasingly pertinent for users. At a time when climate change is high on the political agenda, and there is increasing pressure on governments to act, sharing information on what has been and is being done remains essential.
1 Policies regarding land-use, land use change and forestry, as well as adaptation, are not included.
2 Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Unites States. The European Commission also participates in the work of the IEA.
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