Much more than just a database, JODI highlights the importance of data transparency
23 October 2012
This article appears in the latest issue of IEA Energy: The Journal of the International Energy Agency.
By Jean-Yves Garnier
The end of the 1990s, the oil market experienced high volatility in terms of oil prices, and analysts pointed to the poor quality of oil data as one reason for the volatility. The six main organisations dealing with oil statistics met in Paris in November 2000 to assess the situation on monthly oil reporting. Some collected statistics through well established systems; others collected oil data only on an annual basis. Moreover, definitions on flows and products differed from organisation to organisation, as did units and methodologies used to collect the data.
The six organisations - the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Eurostat, the IEA, the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) - then held a major conference in May 2001 in Bangkok. All the main producer and consumer nations participated, together with many international and national oil companies. It was decided to launch a six-month exercise: each organisation would collect monthly statistics using a standardised questionnaire. Within the six months more than 50 countries were participating; the exercise was extended by another six months, and participation increased to 70 countries; after an additional six months it rose to 90 countries, covering almost 95% of global oil demand and supply. Countries and organisations then decided to make the exercise a permanent compulsory reporting system: the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI) was born.
In 2005, the newly established International Energy Forum (IEF) took over the coordination of the initiative, and one of the first achievements was to assemble all the monthly data collected from the six organisations into a world database. On 19 November 2005, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia launched the JODI database live on the Internet with energy ministers of more than 70 producer and consumer countries. The database, which contains detailed information on production, stocks, trade, refining and demand of crude and products, is updated every month. More and more users access the freely available database every month, with a peak on the day of the update.
Recent expansion of JODI
With the growing success of JODI, policy makers asked the six organisations and the IEF to expand the initiative to natural gas, and possibly to reserves and planned infrastructure capacities. In 2010, the groups started to collect monthly data on natural gas. At the 2nd Conference on Natural Gas Transparency, held in Doha in May 2012, countries and organisations decided to build a joint world natural gas database, similar to the JODI database. This database is to be made available progressively, first to participating countries and then to other users through 2013. As JODI was expanding, what originally was the Joint Oil Data Initiative became the Joint Organisations Data Initiative.
JODI is much more than a database
When countries and organisations embarked on JODI, the aim was simply not to build a global database but to raise the importance of data transparency for effective functioning of the oil market.
Policy makers now better understand the critical nature of timely and detailed statistics for any sound energy policy, leading to major improvements to energy statistics and balances of many countries observed over the past years. The importance of exchanging data to enhance the transparency of global energy commodity markets has been recognised as being beneficial to energy security and in the interest of producers and consumers alike. By helping to mitigate some of the uncertainties that may be detrimental to market functioning, JODI aims to moderate undue price volatility, thereby increasing investor confidence and contributing to greater stability in energy markets worldwide.
A second impact of JODI is the advancement which has been made in terms of international cooperation among organisations. The seven JODI partner organisations - including the IEF - meet three or four times a year to monitor progress and give new impetus when needed; they de facto constitute a think tank for developing energy statistics beyond JODI. They paved the way for the InterEnerStat (International Energy Statistics) initiative which includes, besides the seven JODI partner organisations, 15 bodies that either collect (e.g. the African Energy Commission) or use (e.g. the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) energy statistics. After five years of discussion and negotiation, InterEnerStat led to an international harmonisation of definitions of all energy flows and products used by the participating organisations. In February 2011, the United Nations Statistical Commission adopted those definitions as the basis for all collection of energy statistics data.
Moreover, the JODI questionnaire on monthly oil statistics paved the way to a harmonisation among a variety of organisations of annual questionnaires for all energy forms. First, the IEA, Eurostat and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe harmonised questionnaires; three years ago, APEC adopted similar questionnaires for its member economies; and UNSD is redesigning its annual questionnaire along the lines of those four organisations. The more the questionnaires are harmonised, the less work countries will have to do and the better the data should be.
A major step towards more transparency and better data, but ...
JODI has certainly paved the way for better coverage and more timely and higher quality data about oil as well as all energy forms. The effect extends beyond energy: other organisations have adopted the JODI concept, including the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization's global initiative on cereals. JODI has also raised the profile of statistics and statisticians. Tribute should be paid to the JODI partner organisations, statisticians and policy makers all around the world.
However, the current economic crisis is having an impact on the resources allocated to statistics: for instance, in many countries surveys have stopped and departing statisticians are not being replaced. There are already signs of deterioration in quality. This is true for energy statistics in general but for JODI data in particular.
All of the JODI partner organisations are committed to increasing the coverage and the usefulness of the JODI database; however, transparency will happen only if all countries and companies are fully transparent. Moreover, success will require sufficient resources and universal commitment. The IEA will continue to act with other organisations to offer analysts more and better statistics but this cannot be done without the participation of all.
Jean-Yves Garnier joined the IEA in 1995 and heads the Energy Statistics Division. Before coming to the IEA, his career spanned over five years in Indonesia, three years in Ivory Coast, two years in Djibouti, two years in Berkeley and the rest in Paris, where he was in charge of National Energy Plans, energy-efficiency policy and building energy information systems. Mieke Reece of the IEA Energy Data Centre co-wrote this column.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) produces IEA Energy, but all analysis and views contained in the journal are those of individual authors and not necessarily those of the IEA Secretariat or IEA member countries, and are not to be construed as advice on any specific issue or situation.
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