PUDL is a data processing pipeline that cleans, integrates, and standardizes some of the most widely used public energy datasets in the US. The data serve researchers, activists, journalists, and policy makers that might not have the means to purchase processed data from existing commercial providers, the technical expertise to access it in its raw form, or the time to clean and prepare the data for bulk analysis.
Currently, PUDL has integrated data from:
EIA Form 860 (including EIA 860m)
EIA Form 861 (preliminary)
FERC Form 714 (preliminary)
If you want to get started using PUDL data, visit our Data Access page. Read on to learn about the components of the data processing pipeline.
Raw Data Archives¶
Because the original data PUDL depends on frequently changes, and old versions don’t remain available, we periodically create archives of the raw inputs on Zenodo. They are issued DOIs and made available via Zenodo’s REST API. Each data source can have several different versions, each with its own unique DOI. Each release of the PUDL Python package has a set of DOIs embedded in it, indicating which version of the raw inputs it is meant to process. This helps ensure that our outputs are replicable.
These raw inputs are organized into Frictionless Data Packages with some extra metadata indicating how they are partitioned (by year, state, etc.). The format of the underlying data varies from source to source, and in some cases from year to year, and includes CSVs, Excel spreadsheets, and Visual FoxPro database (DBF) files.
The PUDL software will download a copy of the appropriate raw inputs automatically as needed, and organizes them in a local datastore.
The ETL Process¶
The core of PUDL’s work takes place in the ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) process.
The Extract step reads the raw data from its original heterogeneous formats into a
pandas.DataFrame with uniform column names across all years,
so that it can be easily processed in bulk. In the case of data distributed as binary
database files like DBF such as the FERC Form 1, it may be converted into a unified
SQLite database before individual dataframes are created.
Module documentation within the
The Transform step is generally broken down into two phases. The first focuses on cleaning and organizing data within individual tables, and the focuses on the integration and deduplication of data between tables. These tasks can be tedious data wrangling toil that impose a huge amount of overhead on anyone trying to do analysis based on the publicly available data. PUDL implements common data cleaning operations in the hopes that we can all work on more interesting problems most of the time. These operations include:
Standardization of units (e.g. dollars not thousands of dollars)
Standardization of N/A values
Standardization of freeform names and IDs
Use of controlled vocabularies for categorical values like fuel type
Use of more readable codes and column names
Imposition of well defined, rich data types for each column
Converting local timestamps to UTC
Reshaping of data into well normalized tables which minimize data duplication
Inferring Plant IDs which link records across many years of FERC Form 1 data
Inferring linkages between FERC and EIA Plants and Utilities.
Inferring more complete associations between EIA boilers and generators
The module and per-table transform functions in the
sub-package have more details on the specific transformations applied to each
Many of the original datasets contain large amounts of duplicated data. For instance, the EIA reports the name of each power plant in every table that refers to otherwise unique plant-related data. Similarly, many attributes like plant latitude and longitude are reported separately every year. Often these reported values are not self-consistent. There may be several different spellings of a plant’s name, or an incorrectly reported latitude in one year.
The transform step attempts to eliminate this kind of inconsistent duplicate information when normalizing the tables, choosing only the most consistently reported value for inclusion in the final database. If a value which should be static is not consistently reported, it may also be set to N/A.
Tidy Data by Hadley Wickham, Journal of Statistical Software (2014).
A Simple Guide to the Five Normal Forms in Relational Database Theory by William Kent, Communications of the ACM (1983).
At the end of the Transform step, we have collections of DataFrames which correspond to database tables. These written out to (“loaded” into) platform indepenent tabular data packages where the data is stored as CSV files, and the metadata is stored as JSON. These sttatic, text-based output formats are archive-friendly, and can be used to populate a database, or read with Python, R, and many other tools.
Starting with v0.5.0 of PUDL, we will begin generating SQLite database and Apache Parquet file outputs directly, and using those formats to distribute the processed data.
Module documentation within the
Database & Output Tables¶
Tabular Data Packages are archive friendly and platform independent, but given the size and complexity of the data within PUDL, this format isn’t ideal for day to day interactive use. In practice, we take the clean, processed data in the data packages and use it to populate a local SQLite database. To handle the ~1 billion row EPA CEMS hourly time series we convert the data package into Apache Parquet dataset which is partitioned by state and year. For more details on these conversions to SQLite and Parquet formats, see Data Packages.
Working with the PUDL data interactively, you’ll often want to combine information from more than one table to make the data more readable and readily interpretable. For example the name that EIA uses to refer to a power plant is only stored in the plants_entity_eia table in association with the plant’s unique numeric ID. If you are working with data from the fuel_receipts_costs_eia923 table, which records monthly per-plant fuel deliveries, you may want to have the name of the plant alongside the fuel delivery information since it’s more recognizable than the plant ID.
Rather than requiring everyone to write their own SQL
statements or do a bunch of
pandas.merge() operations to bring together data,
PUDL provides a variety of predefined queries as methods of the
pudl.output.pudltabl.PudlTabl class, which do common joins and return
dataframes that are convenient for interactive use. This avoids duplicating data in the
database (which often leads to data integrity issues), but still provides convenient
In the future we intend to replace the simple denormalized output tables with database views which are integrated into the distributed SQLite database directly. This will provide the same convenience without requiring use of the Python software layer.
There are several analytical routines built into the
pudl.output.pudltabl.PudlTabl output objects for calculating derived values
like the heat rate by generation unit (
hr_by_unit), or the capacity factor by generator
capacity_factor). We intend to
integrate more analytical output into the library over time.
We have a growing collection of data validation test cases which we run before
publishing a data release to try and avoid publishing data wth known issues. Most of
these validations are described in the
pudl.validate module. They check things
The heat content of various fuel types are within expected bounds.
Coal ash, moisture, mercury, sulfur etc. content are within expected bounds
Generator heat rates and capacity factors are realistic for the type of prime mover being reported.
Some data validations are currently only specified within our test suite, including:
The expected number of records within each table
The fact that there are no entirely N/A columns
A variety of database integrity checks are also run either during the ETL process or when the data is loaded into SQLite.
See our Testing PUDL documentation for more information.