How Can Open Source Help Fight Climate Change?
DUBLIN — The mission of Linux Foundation Energy — a collaborative, international effort by power companies to help move the world away from fossil fuels — has never seemed more urgent.
In addition to the increased frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events like hurricanes and heat waves, the war between Russia and Ukraine has oil-dependent countries looking ahead to a winter of likely energy shortages.
“I think we need to go faster,” said Benoît Jeanson, an enterprise architect at RTE, the French electricity transmission system operator. He added, “What we are doing with the Linux Foundation Energy is really something that will help for the future, and we need to go faster and faster.”
For this On the Road episode of The New Stack’s Makers podcast, recorded at Open Source Summit Europe here, we were joined by two guests who work in the power industry and whose organizations are part of LF Energy.
In addition to Jeanson, this episode featured Jonas van den Bogaard, a solution architect and open source ambassador at Alliander, an energy network company that provides energy transport and distribution to a large part of the Netherlands. Van den Bogaard also serves on the technical advisory council of LF Energy.
Heather Joslyn, features editor of TNS, hosted this conversation.
18 Open Source Projects
LF Energy, started in 2018, now includes 59 member organizations, including cloud providers Google and Microsoft, enterprises like General Electric, and research institutions like Stanford University. It currently hosts 18 open source projects; the podcast guests encouraged listeners to check them out and contribute to them.
Among them: OpenSTEF, automated machine learning pipelines to deliver accurate forecasts of the load on the energy grid 48 hours ahead of time. “It gives us the opportunity to take action in time to prevent the maximum grid capacity [from being] reached,” said van den Bogaard.
“That’s going to prevent blackouts and that sort of thing. And also, another side: it makes us able to add renewable energies to the grid.”
Jeanson said that the open source projects aim to cover “every level of the stack. We also have tools that we want to develop at the substation level, in the field.” Among them: OperatorFabric, Written in Java and based on the Spring framework, OperatorFabric is a modular, extensible platform for systems operators, including several features aimed at helping utility operators.
It helps operators coordinate the many tasks and alerts they need to keep track of by aggregate notifications from several applications into a single screen.
“Energy is of importance for everyone,” said van den Bogaard. “And especially moving to more cleaner and renewable energy is key for us all. We have great minds all around the world. And I really believe that we can achieve that. The best way to do that is to combine the efforts of all those great minds. Open source can be a great enabler of that.”
Cultural Education Needed
But persuading decision-makers in the power industry to participate in building the next generation of open source solutions can be a challenge, van den Bogaard acknowledged.
“You see, that the energy domain has been there for a long time, and has been quite stable, up to like 10 years ago,” he said. In such a tradition-bound culture, change is hard. In the cloud era, he added, a lot of organizations “need to digitalize and focus more on it and those capabilities are new. And also, open source, for in that matter is also a very new concept.”
One obstacle in the energy industry taking more advantage of open source tools, Jeanson noted, is security: “Some organizations still see open source to be a potential risk.” Getting them on board, he said, requires education and training.
He added, “vendors need to understand that open source is an opportunity that they should not be afraid of. That we want to do business with them based on open source. We just need to accelerate the momentum.”
Check out the whole episode to learn more about LF Energy’s work.