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Having rapidly established itself as a "go to" site for transportation and other related energy information, the Virtual Information Bridge to Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (VIBE) is expanding its reach to attract new users across the widest range of energy issues. A sister site to VIBE, called Open Energy Information, has been launched to allow organizations around the world to both post their own energy data and download data, for free.

At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), VIBE is known as a state-of-the art presentation studio on the third floor of Building 16. Its walls are covered with flat-screen monitors aglow with widgets, home pages, web links and sundry visual cues of the virtual world, all smattered among scores of more conventional pie charts, myriad bar graphs and a plethora of energy datasets.

To the world beyond the Laboratory, VIBE and Open Energy Information (OpenEI) contain that same treasure trove of information and a lot more — with every tidbit of data just a mouse click away from any internet-connected device, anywhere.

DOE Selects Platform for Internet Information Sharing

In recent weeks, the potential of VIBE has become apparent across the nation and around the globe.

Last month, OpenEI was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to fulfill the Administration's commitment to open up the workings of the federal government through the Internet. DOE hailed OpenEI as the way to make energy information "transparent, participatory and collaborative."

"This information platform will allow people across the globe to benefit from the Department of Energy's clean energy data and technical resources," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. "The true potential of this tool will grow with the public's participation — as they add new data and share their expertise — to ensure that all communities have access to the information they need to broadly deploy the clean energy resources of the future."

Through VIBE and OpenEI, NREL is putting information and data at everyone's fingertips, to use, to download, to build on and to spur needed new analysis. The ultimate goal is to make the most relevant knowledge about energy issues available to anyone at any time, so that decision-makers in both the public and private sectors can help the nation achieve its clean energy goals.

Together, these digital assets provide worldwide access to NREL's valuable analytical capabilities, and thus help transform energy markets, policy decisions and technology investments.

Enlarge image (Caption: Open Energy Information, or OpenEI, will allow people across the globe to benefit from the Department of Energy's clean energy data and technical resources.)

Gateway To Allow International Exchange

OpenEI also was seized on by the teams representing the United States at international climate negotiations in Copenhagen and the Major Economies Forum (MEF). A new gateway was created specifically for MEF on the OpenEI platform, allowing participating countries to share data, information, resources and tools, including real-time activity tracking. It also will facilitate open participation and input via a "wiki" type collaborative system.

OpenEI, it is hoped, will leverage a wealth of data to allow MEF countries to share best practices and successful implementation strategies, facilitate collaboration with other nations and international organizations, provide global resource maps and information on hot-spot development, make available a portfolio of analysis tools to encourage sustainable energy development, maintain data about the status, characteristics and impacts of clean energy technology deployment and accelerate development of clean energy through worldwide access to information.

Over time, the plan is to expand the OpenEI portal to include online training and networks of technical experts. The portal is co-funded by the International Energy Agency, United Nations Industrial Development Organization and many other international organizations.

Another new gateway that showcases the work of the entire Department of Energy national laboratory complex already is available on the OpenEI platform. That gateway, U.S. OpenLabs, was highlighted at the Copenhagen Climate Conference last month.

VIBE and OpenEI will continue to evolve to support greater knowledge of energy issues and options, and strengthen sound decision-making for policy makers, researchers, technology investors, venture capitalists and market professionals across the U.S. and around the world.

Gary Schmitz represents the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in its External Affairs Office. Over the past decade he has helped the Golden, Colo. laboratory communicate its vital work in providing energy solutions to the nation.  Prior to joining NREL, Mr. Schmitz worked in public affairs and policy positions in our nation’s capital. He began his career as a journalist, and for four years covered energy and environmental issues in the Washington, D.C. Bureau of The Denver Post.  He is a graduate of San Diego State University.   

This article originally appeared as a National Renewable Energy Laboratory feature article and was reprinted with permission.

Editor's note: Another gateway that is accessible through the Open Energy Platform is the Clean Energy Landscape, which RenewableEnergyWorld.com contributor Alison Wise wrote about here.

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