Cloning the FERC Form 1 DB#

FERC Form 1 is special.

The FERC Form 1 is published in a particularly inaccessible format. From 1994-2020 it used the proprietary FoxPro database binary format. Then in 2021 it switched to XBRL, a dialect of XML used for financial reporting.

In addition to using two difficult to parse and very different file formats, the data itself is unclean and poorly organized. As a result, very few people are currently able to use it. This means that, while we have not yet integrated the vast majority of the available data into PUDL, it’s useful to just provide programmatic access to the bulk raw data, independent of the cleaner subset of the data included within PUDL.

To provide that access, we’ve broken the pudl.extract.ferc1 process down into several distinct steps:

  1. Clone the 1994-2020 annual database from FoxPro (DBF) into a local file-based sqlite3 database.

  2. Clone the 2021 and later data from XBRL into another sqlite3 database, with a different structure, derived from the FERC Form 1 XBRL taxonomy.

  3. Select a limited subset of the tables in these databases for further processing and integration into the PUDL sqlite3 database.

The FoxPro / XBRL derived FERC Form 1 databases include 100+ tables, containing 3000+ columns.

If you want direct access to the original FERC Form 1 database, you can just do the database cloning and connect directly to the resulting database. This has become especially useful since Microsoft recently discontinued the database driver that until late 2018 had allowed users to load the FoxPro database files into Microsoft Access.

In any case, cloning the original FERC database is the first step in the PUDL ETL process. This can be done with the ferc_to_sqlite script (which is an entrypoint into the pudl.convert.ferc_to_sqlite module) which is installed as part of the PUDL Python package. It takes its instructions from a YAML file, an example of which is included in the settings directory in your PUDL workspace. Once you’ve created a datastore, you can try this example:

$ ferc_to_sqlite settings/etl_full.yml

This should create several outputs that you can find in your workspace at:

  • sqlite/ferc1.sqlite: Data from 1994-2020 (FoxPro/DBF)

  • sqlite/ferc1_xbrl.sqlite: Data from 2021 onward (XBRL)

  • sqlite/ferc1_xbrl_datapackage.json: Frictionless data package descriptor for the XBRL derived database.

  • sqlite/ferc1_xbrl_taxonomy_metadata.json: A JSON version of the XBRL Taxonomy, containing additional metadata.

By default, the script pulls in all available years and tables of data. The output is roughly 1GB on disk.


This script pulls all of the FERC Form 1 DBF data into a single database, but FERC distributes a separate database for each year. Virtually all the database tables contain a report_year column that indicates which year they came from, preventing collisions between records in the merged multi-year database. One notable exception is the f1_respondent_id table, which maps respondent_id to the names of the respondents. For that table, we have allowed the most recently reported record to take precedence, overwriting previous mappings if they exist.


There are a handful of respondent_id values that appear in the FERC Form 1 database tables but do not show up in f1_respondent_id. This renders the foreign key relationships between those tables invalid. During the database cloning process we add these respondent_id values to the f1_respondent_id table with a respondent_name indicating that the ID was filled in by PUDL.