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Enhanced spatio-temporal electric load forecasts using less data with active deep learning


An effective way to mitigate climate change is to electrify most of our energy demand and supply the necessary electricity from renewable wind and solar power plants. Spatio-temporal predictions of electric load become increasingly important for planning this transition, while deep learning prediction models provide increasingly accurate predictions for it. The data that are used for training deep learning models, however, are usually collected at random using a passive learning approach. This naturally results in a large demand for data and associated costs for sensors such as smart meters, posing a large barrier for electric utilities when decarbonizing their grids. Here we investigate whether electric utilities can use active learning to collect a more informative subset of data by leveraging additional computation for better distributing smart meters. We predict ground-truth electric load profiles for single buildings using only remotely sensed data from aerial imagery of these buildings and meteorological conditions in the area of these buildings at different times. We find that active learning can enable 26–81% more accurate predictions using 29–46% less data at the price of 4–11 times more computation compared with passive learning.

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Fig. 1: The current state of global smart meter adoption.
Fig. 2: Overview of the spatio-temporal embedding network architecture.
Fig. 3: Overview of ADL variants.
Fig. 4: Exemplar results for spatio-temporal predictions and ADL variable \({\hat{{{{\mathbf{y}}}}}}_{t,s}\).
Fig. 5: Exemplar results for reducing computational time and testing query sequence.

Data availability

All of our data and results can be accessed on the Harvard Dataverse under a CC0 1.0 license ( For privacy maintenance, we only provide load profiles that are sampled from the original data and histograms of pixel values of building images, which can be used to reproduce all the elements of our original experiments.

Code availability

All results, figures and tables can be reproduced using step-by-step instructions in Jupyter notebook sessions that we provide in a public Github repository ( We further maintain a Python package ( and a Docker container ( implementation of our algorithm. All code is available under an MIT license.


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We acknowledge funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 837089 (A.A., A.P. and S.P.), for the SENTINEL project.

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A.A. conceptualized the research, designed and implemented all the methods, conducted all the analyses and drafted the manuscript. S.P. edited and revised the manuscript and reviewed the code. A.P. helped in interpreting the data and supervised the creation of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Arsam Aryandoust.

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Nature Machine Intelligence thanks Valentin Robu and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Aryandoust, A., Patt, A. & Pfenninger, S. Enhanced spatio-temporal electric load forecasts using less data with active deep learning. Nat Mach Intell 4, 977–991 (2022).

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