France: Energy production mix is changing

France is in the forefront of clean energy production. The country manages to sustain its demand for electricity by producing around 75% of it through nuclear plants, the highest share in the world of the total energy generation. During the last five years, the total production of energy has remained relatively stable, with fossil energy showing minor shift down. Every day, the production of wind energy and the production of solar energy follow opposite direction, with wind energy being produced more at nights.

France is number two in the world in producing nuclear energy, right behind the U.S. and ahead of Russia and China. If comparison were in terms of nuclear share on the total domestic electricity generation, France has by far the highest percentage portion of any country in the world. However has the total energy consumption increased? What are the main sources of energy in France and how have their portions changed across time?

In our last report we inspected energy consumption in France and found that electricity consumption has increased during the past five years. Around 75% of electricity comes from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. In 2015, 15% of electricity came from renewable energy, and therefore 90% non-fossil, non-CO2-emitting energy. Government policy is to reduce nuclear to 50% by 2035, in an effort to increase renewable energy portion.

French production of energy is mainly controlled from ENGIE and EDF, the two largest producers, and some smaller providers that are mainly focused on renewable energy. ENGIE and EDF were state-owned until late 2006 and the government has a large say in their management. Respectively, it currently owns more than 30% of ENGIE’s capital and 85.3% of EDF’s capital.

Interestingly, due to high regulation and governmental intervention in the market, energy efficiency has increased in the past yeas and total production per capita has slowed down. According to the International Energy Agency, the production of primary and secondary oil has decreased by 25% since 2005. As of 2014, natural gas production has experiences a sharp fall and its levels are now incomparable to what they were.

France produces more energy than it consumes. The figure below shows that France consumes almost 1.5 billion MW a year while it produces more than 2 billion MW. However, in our consumption estimates only electricity and gas are calculated.

If we zoom in the production part, fossil and nuclear energy account for the highest portion. There seems to be little variation with the production of these two energy sources. In 2016, nuclear energy declined by almost 8% and remained at those levels ever since.

Clean energy production has showed substantial increase since 2013. In 2018, wind energy has almost doubled and solar energy more than doubled since 2013. This shows the continuous efforts of the French government to move towards clean sources by 2040.

Moving forward to monthly volatility:

During winter, while temperatures decrease and demand for energy increases, the production of energy follows along. However, the overall total production shows less volatility than consumption. In the summer, the total production decreases with 35% while consumption by about 50% in the case of electricity, and 80% in the case of gas.

Zooming in, we see the seasonal fluctuation of solar energy and that of wind. As expected, the highest production of wind is in the stormy season of winter, and the highest production of solar energy is during sunny summer.

Production is higher during daily hours but the difference is not substantial with the night time production. The gap between day and night total production is only 15%.  

Solar energy shows an inverse U-shaped distribution throughout the day with the most energy being produced during light hours. During night time, solar panels require energy stored from during day time as their energy production reaches negative levels. The production of wind energy is highest during night time. 

Download the full report: France: Energy production mix is changing.

France: Energy consumption doubles in winter.

Historically, energy consumption in France has been dependent on coal and oil. Since 1970s gas consumption has tripled, only to slow down during the late years. Increase in energy efficiency, market dynamics and regulation have changed the shape of the pie in the energy market. Electricity, which is mainly sourced from nuclear plants, is the primary source of energy and its consumption is less volatile throughout months. In July, the consumption of gas is 20% of gas consumption in January, while electricity consumption is half of what it is during January.


France is the country with the largest share of nuclear electricity in the world. Its electrical grid is part of the Synchronous grid of Continental Europe and the country is ranked among the world’s biggest net exporters of electricity. According to Planet Energies (2018), during 1973 and 2015 oil consumption fell by 35%, while gas consumption almost tripled. How has the consumption of electricity and gas changed during the past five years in France?

In 2015, primary energy consumption in metropolitan France broke down to 42% nuclear, 30% oil, 14% natural gas, 9.4% renewable energy and 3% imported coal. (RTE Results, 2017).  France’s energy landscape has been shifting constantly for a while, with core inputs shifting one another throughout time.

Historically, coal and oil were the two main forms of energy sources. Until 1970, the majority of energy consumption was supported solely from these two sources. However in late 1970’s, the energy structure underwent a profound transformation with the large-scale development of nuclear energy. In 1990s natural gas dominated the energy production and the consumption followed along.

Until 2005 energy consumption rose gradually for both gas and electricity. Changes in economic activity and improvements in energy efficiency eased down consumption. Today, the country is experiencing a fresh transition to clean sources with the development of renewable energies and the implementation of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. France plans to reduce the share of nuclear to 50% in the electricity mix by 2025.

Mainly energy consumption is split in three major sectors: The first and most important one is residential and tertiary consumption which accounts for about 45% of the total share.

Transportation is second with 33% of the share. This share increased since 1990s when it was around 20% of total consumption, only to decrease at the later years due to changes in regulation and energy efficiency. According to the National Statistics office of France, petroleum-based fuels remain largely dominant in transport.

Thirdly, industry is the sector where the drop in energy consumption until 2015 has been the most remarkable. The sector faced broader developments which shifted from the predominant use of oil and coal to the growing use of gas and electricity over the period. As with gas, the growth was sharp during 1990s, and it slowed down during recent years.

The 2016 International Energy Agency review of France’s energy policies highlights and several areas that are critical to the success of the energy transition. For example, planned growth of the share of electric vehicles and renewable electricity will require enhanced power system operation and flexibility, including demand-side response, smart grids and metering, and more interconnections.

Data and Insights

Following the claims that regulation changed the shares of energy consumption in 2015, total gas consumption saw a sharp increase a year later in 2016. Even though on average, electricity consumption counts more than twice as that of gas, its drop in 2014 was quite sharp.

Looking at regional differences, gas consumption shows three peaks in Grand-Est, Hauts de France and the main economic region Ile de France. Yearly consumption in these regions amounts around 80 million MW. Compared to other regions in France, this amount is almost double.

Monthly data on gas and electricity shows that the seasonal consumption of both these energy sources is highest during winter time when it’s colder and daylight is limited. Areas with highest economic activity like Ile de France show less volatility due to high dependence on these sources.

Gas consumption shows higher monthly volatility than that of electricity, as it is the main source of heating, which is highly dependent on temperature. Electricity usage increases during winter at a slower pace as its consumption is less dependent on weather. The figure below shows this relationship on monthly average terms. During July and August, both electricity and gas are at its lowest levels while temperature is at its highest.

On average, daily consumption of gas in France is 1,303 GB of gas and 2,516 GB of electricity. On average, if daily temperature increases with 1 °C total average consumption of gas decreases with around 84 GB and the consumption of electricity decreases with 60 GB.

Download the full report: France: Energy consumption doubles in winter.

Diesel prices are set to rise.

This piece is going to look at historical price differences between unleaded petrol and diesel in The Netherlands. In the long run the price of crude oil is the main component that affects this price differential. In the short run, state taxes and subsidies affect the price of both fuels. Additionally, environmentally oriented regulations with respect to the level of sulfur in diesel has pushed the prices up and narrowed the difference. Throughout the year there exists some seasonality with winter having smaller price difference, as demand for diesel increases and the price of diesel follows along. 

Unleaded petrol has continuously been more expensive than diesel. In the Netherlands the historical gap has been around 20% and it is getting narrower with time. If in early 2006, petrol was a bit above 25% more expensive than diesel, in 2019 this price differential is 15%. What are the main drivers behind this narrowing?

While the price of crude oil is the main driver of retail fuel prices in the long-run price, differences across countries are due to various taxes and subsidies for gasoline or diesel. During the ending of 2018, crude oil prices have shown shaky signs and the price differential between petrol and diesel is quite unstable.

Crude oil prices have been on the rise for about a year, passing the $80 per barrel level in January 2019. On top of that, supply concerns from U.S. sanctions pushed the prices even further up. In the short run, exchange rates, tax policy, regulations, supply disruptions, and seasonal factors also play a role but these influences are minor compared to crude oil. 

Moving forward, in an effort to decrease pollution from ships, on the 1st of January, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will require the sulfur content in marine fuel to drop from a maximum of 3.5% down to 0.5%.

While in Europe these type of regulations began in the early 1990s, the U.S. began to phase in the ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) only in 2006. Meeting the standards of ULSD requires a substantial investment into equipment to remove the sulfur. In turn, diesel prices went substantially up and the price differential became narrower.

Experts predict that the European average gasoline price is expected to remain relatively stable at around €1.27 per liter in 2019. This average is based on 36 European countries including Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Russia. The average diesel price is expected to be €1.17 in January 2020, or around 1% more expensive than 2018. In any case, it seems certain that diesel prices are set to rise during 2019, and more significantly than petrol prices.  

Let’s start with the yearly average of oil and diesel prices since 2006. The highest average price of both fuels was noted in 2012 and the lowest was in the aftermath of 2009. The world economic contraction and the lack of local demand pulled crude oil prices down during the financial crisis of 2009 which had an immediate effect on petrol and diesel.

In 2012, higher oil prices, driven by concerns about Iran, have been behind the rising price of petrol fuel. Crude oil prices rose by 12% throughout 2012 and with a recovering economy and an underlying upward trend in global demand, the risks of the price increasing further were high.

Back in 2013, a litre of petrol costed an average €1.78 in the Netherlands, compared with €1.64 in Belgium and €1.55 in Germany. Italy was closest to the Netherlands, with a litre of Euro95 costing €1.73.

Still, the price growth of petrol is nowhere close to that of diesel. The increasing cost of diesel motoring in the Netherlands is partly due to various car-related taxes, which are the highest in Europe. While tax on petrol-driven cars is the second-highest in Europe after Norway.

If we focus on the difference, the figure below can give us more insights. In 2016 petrol was 23% more expensive than diesel, while in January 2019 this gap decreased to a bit above 15%. The lowest recorded difference was that of 2019 but there are eleven months to follow. The second lowest was that of 2008 when both fuels were cheapest.

While the price difference between petrol and LPG has historically remained steady, with petrol being 60% more expensive than LPG, increasing diesel prices are narrowing the gap between diesel and petrol.

Moreover there is a seasonality noticed throughout the year. Fuel oil used for heating homes is made from the same ingredients as diesel fuel. As it gets colder throughout the year, the demand for heating oil rises.

In turn this pushes the diesel price up and narrows the price difference between petrol and diesel further. On average, petrol is 21% more expensive during the period May- September and 17% more than diesel during October- February.

Download the full report: Diesel prices are set to rise.

The Reason Why More London Bikers are Renting and Riding

Good news: Biking in London has become more popular. Every year the number of bike hires has increased and this is a good sign towards car-free cities. During summer the number of hired bikes together with the hiring time increases. This increase is mostly attributed to good weather but not only. In an effort to green commuting, London City has been pushing towards bike friendly policies.

Imagine yourself as a tourist in London. London is exciting and fun but it is also one of the most expensive cities in the world and the tube costs are quite high. Would you consider renting a bike to move around? Would it matter if it’s cold or warm? Would it matter if you had to bike for long?

The Brits might not be as crazy to cycle as the Dutch or the Danes, but with increasing bike infrastructure in London bikers are having it a lot easier to ride in a convenient, safe and obvious way to get around.

There’s a certain sense of freedom in biking. You hop on and pedal to wherever your legs can take you. Not only it takes you places, but biking has so many good externalities for your health and the environment.

However, cycling in big cities where pollution is the highest is not that easy. Cyclists face long distances, bad weather, heavy traffic, increasing number of traffic lights, lack of infrastructure and these are only a few of plenty of obstacles.
However the claim that distances are longer in large cities relies on the typical day-to-day journeys people make In reality, most trip lengths in large cities are actually short.

Huge improvements have been made to London’s cycling network over the last decade, with more driver awareness campaigns, higher safety precautions, more cycle lanes and extensions to the Santander Cycles scheme.

This report is going to look at the number of bike hires in London and the average hire time per month.

Data and Insights

Figure 1 below shows that the number of bike hires has increased since 2010. In 2017 there were more a bit more than 10 million bike hires in London and until 2018 there were 8 million hires recorded for this year.

Figure 1: Number of bicycle hires each yearScreen Shot 2019-01-03 at 1.17.46 PM

Figure 2 below shows the ongoing fluctuation of bicycle hires each month since September 2010. During September 2010 there were 540 thousand bikes hired in London, when as compared to 8 years later in the same month, there were over a million bikes hired.

Figure 2: Number of bicycle hires each month
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 1.18.13 PM
Hiring time has relatively decreased and spread out a bit more among months. Figure 3 below shows that the average hire time of a single bike in July 2018 was 23 min as when compared to April 2010 when the average hiring time was 27 min.

Figure 3: Average hire time
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 1.18.30 PM
During winter the length of a bike hire is smaller as weather does not allow for an enjoyable riding. However, what is remarkable is that the average hiring time has lower yearly variation now than it had 8 years ago and is spreading more and more out throughout the entire year.
One could claim that Londoners are caring less about the cold wind and more about getting healthy and saving the environment.
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5 Key Questions About Alternative Data

Alternative data has quickly become the hot new area in data science. As the world is becoming more transparent and digital, the number of virtual footprints increases, as does the availability of data. Satellite imagery, social media posts, geolocation tracking – they all make for new, exciting sources of information that contain all sorts of insights. But alternative data is still a new(ish) area in the world of data. That’s why we compiled a five question-explainer to understand the basics.

So, what is alternative data?

Alternative data is data retrieved from non-traditional, alternative information sources. It yields additional insights that complement the information users receive from traditional sources, like censuses, surveys or institutions.

It’s data that comes from literally everywhere in our digital world. Think: satellites, wearables, search engines, etc.

But it also consists of seeing old data in a new way. For example: using cable subscription cancellations as a real estate market indicator. Or measuring the amount of paper being recycled to see how much business activity is taking place in a city.  

One of the benefits alternative data holds over more traditional data is its frequency. Oftentimes it is not measured once every few years, but monthly, daily or sometimes even every minute. Collecting this data allows for more dense and precise analysis, giving a competitive advantage to businesses, institutions and other decision makers. 

What sources are used for alternative data tracking?

All sorts of data. Some examples of data we’re exploring include:

  • Retail data about transactions in stores and on-line
  • Images from satellites, aircrafts and drones
  • Startups which track the most popular items
  • Real estate figures about sales, leases and rentals
  • Data from the Internet of Things (IoT), like sensor data and scraped data from websites
  • Geo-location data, like location tracking from mobile devices
  • Shipping data about vessels, volumes and positioning

These are just a handful of examples. For a more complete list, check our website.

Who can use alternative data? And why?

Everyone, really. To name a few parties:

  • Investors and hedge funds can use it to better calculate and manage risks, and thus boost their investment edge.
  • Journalists looking for trends and stories as soon as they start
  • Citizens can make use of it to hold governments accountable for the accuracy of traditional data sets.
  • Contractors can apply it to predict growth and opportunities in specific areas.
  • Businesses can use it to examine consumer behaviour and preferences for goods.
  • Governments can use it for policy making, climate tracking and to ensure aid is being used in the right places in the right way

How can alternative data help?

Using alternative data helps to make better informed decisions and generate deeper insights.

Some examples:

When you’re buying a house, you first want to investigate real-estate prices over time, the supply of houses or even the number of organic coffees sold to see if this is a neighborhood you want to live in..

When signing a contract for a new job, you first want to compare wages and labour supply for different professions in your industry.

Or when starting a business, you want to map out as much information as possible about consumer preferences for particular product types and investigate public sector trends that might affect the business cycle.

Any success stories?

Yup, plenty. Here’s a case study about business opportunities arising from shipping data:

Commercial ships across the world transmit their location hourly, generating huge datasets that are difficult to process.  Suburbia turned this data into a time series, showing exactly how many ships entered certain ports at certain times. Then we drew this into a line chart.

What we learned is that there is a peak in ships entering the port of Rotterdam around November 15th, when retailers gear up for the holiday season.

Business opportunities that arise as a result include:

  • Warehouse owners around the port offering deals on storage space mid-November
  • Those looking to finance inventories could offer their services around this time of increased port traffic
  • Companies whose goods are imported through the harbour can calculate demand fluctuations and take measurements upfront.
  • Insurance companies offering insurance against delays during times of high activity and thus congestion.


This is just one example of datasets we collect, analyze and translate into business opportunities. At Suburbia, we partner with startups and corporates to enrich their data and help them understand it. From exploring commodity demand to tracking clothing sales, Suburbia helps you gain the insights you need to better engage customers. We help to deliver clean, ready-to-consume formats and visuals for companies and institutions. Like this. Or this.

The data in our systems is always aggregated and Suburbia does not work with identified data or data about identifiable living individuals (personal data).

So, do you sit on a pool of data you’d like to enrich and monetize? Let us help you.  Are you looking for data to solve a problem? Let us help you find what you’re looking for, so you can make better business decisions – faster.

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