Postgres database

This document describes how to get the postgres database ready to use and maintain it (do migrations / changes to the structure).


This is about a stable database, useful for longer development work or production. A super quick way to get a postgres database running with Docker is described in Toy example I: Scheduling a battery, from scratch. In Running a complete stack with docker-compose we use both postgres and redis.

We also spend a few words on coding with database transactions in mind.

Getting ready to use


  • We assume flexmeasures for your database and username here. You can use anything you like, of course.

  • The name flexmeasures_test for the test database is good to keep this way, as automated tests are looking for that database / user / password.


We believe FlexMeasures works with Postgres above version 9 and we ourselves have run it with versions up to 14.

On Linux:

$ # On Ubuntu and Debian, you can install postgres like this:
$ sudo apt-get install postgresql-12  # replace 12 with the version available in your packages
$ pip install psycopg2-binary

$ # On Fedora, you can install postgres like this:
$ sudo dnf install postgresql postgresql-server
$ sudo postgresql-setup --initdb --unit postgresql

On Windows:

On Macos:

$ brew update
$ brew doctor
$ # Need to specify postgres version, in this example we use 13
$ brew install postgresql@13
$ brew link postgresql@13 --force
$ # Start postgres (you can change /usr/local/var/postgres to any directory you like)
$ pg_ctl -D /usr/local/var/postgres -l logfile start

Using Docker Compose:

Alternatively, you can use Docker Compose to run a postgres database. You can use the following docker-compose.yml as a starting point:

version: '3.7'

    image: postgres:latest
    restart: always
      POSTGRES_USER: flexmeasures
      POSTGRES_PASSWORD: this-is-your-secret-choice
      POSTGRES_DB: flexmeasures
      - 5432:5432
      - ./postgres-data:/var/lib/postgresql/data
    network_mode: host

To run this, simply type docker-compose up in the directory where you saved the docker-compose.yml file. Pass the -d flag to run it in the background.

This will create a postgres database in a directory postgres-data in your current working directory. You can change the password and database name to your liking. You can also change the port mapping to e.g. 5433:5432 if you already have a postgres database running on your host machine.

Make sure postgres represents datetimes in UTC timezone

(Otherwise, pandas can get confused with daylight saving time.)

Luckily, many web hosters already have timezone= 'UTC' set correctly by default, but local postgres installations often use timezone='localtime'.

In any case, check both your local installation and the server, like this:

Find the postgres.conf file. Mine is at /etc/postgresql/9.6/main/postgresql.conf. You can also type SHOW config_file; in a postgres console session (as superuser) to find the config file.

Find the timezone setting and set it to ‘UTC’.

Then restart the postgres server.

$ sudo service postgresql restart


If you are using Docker to run postgres, the timezone setting is already set to UTC by default.

Create “flexmeasures” and “flexmeasures_test” databases and users

From the terminal:

Open a console (use your Windows key and type cmd). Proceed to create a database as the postgres superuser (using your postgres user password):

$ sudo -i -u postgres
$ createdb -U postgres flexmeasures
$ createdb -U postgres flexmeasures_test
$ createuser --pwprompt -U postgres flexmeasures      # enter your password
$ createuser --pwprompt -U postgres flexmeasures_test  # enter "flexmeasures_test" as password
$ exit


In case you encounter the following “FAILS: sudo: unknown user postgres” you need to create “postgres” OS user with sudo rights first - better done via System preferences -> Users & Groups.

Or, from within Postgres console:

CREATE USER flexmeasures WITH PASSWORD 'this-is-your-secret-choice';
CREATE DATABASE flexmeasures WITH OWNER = flexmeasures;
CREATE USER flexmeasures_test WITH PASSWORD 'flexmeasures_test';
CREATE DATABASE flexmeasures_test WITH OWNER = flexmeasures_test;

Finally, test if you can log in as the flexmeasures user:

$ psql -U flexmeasures --password -h -d flexmeasures

Add Postgres Extensions to your database(s)

To find the nearest sensors, FlexMeasures needs some extra Postgres support. Add the following extensions while logged in as the postgres superuser:

$ sudo -u postgres psql
\connect flexmeasures
CREATE EXTENSION earthdistance;


Lines from above should be run seperately

If you have it, connect to the flexmeasures_test database and repeat creating these extensions there. Then exit.

Configure FlexMeasures app for that database


SQLALCHEMY_DATABASE_URI = "postgresql://flexmeasures:<password>@"

into the config file you are using, e.g. ~/.flexmeasures.cfg

Get structure (and some data) into place

You need data to enjoy the benefits of FlexMeasures or to develop features for it. In this section, there are some ways to get started.

Import from another database

Here is a short recipe to import data from a FlexMeasures database (e.g. a demo database) into your local system.

On the to-be-exported database:

$ flexmeasures db-ops dump


Only the data gets dumped here.

Then, we create the structure in our database anew, based on the data model given by the local codebase:

$ flexmeasures db-ops reset

Then we import the data dump we made earlier:

$ flexmeasures db-ops restore <DATABASE DUMP FILENAME>

A potential alembic_version error should not prevent other data tables from being restored. You can also choose to import a complete db dump into a freshly created database, of course.


To make sure passwords will be decrypted correctly when you authenticate, set the same SECURITY_PASSWORD_SALT value in your config as the one that was in use when the dumped passwords were encrypted!

Create data manually

First, you can get the database structure with:

$ flexmeasures db upgrade


If you develop code (and might want to make changes to the data model), you should also check out the maintenance section about database migrations.

You can create users with the add user command. Check it out:

$ flexmeasures add account --help
$ flexmeasures add user --help

You can create some pre-determined asset types and data sources with this command:

$ flexmeasures add initial-structure

You can also create assets in the FlexMeasures UI.

On the command line, you can add many things. Check what data you can add yourself:

$ flexmeasures add --help

For instance, you can create forecasts for your existing metered data with this command:

$ flexmeasures add forecasts --help

Check out it’s --help content to learn more. You can set which assets and which time window you want to forecast. Of course, making forecasts takes a while for a larger dataset. You can also simply queue a job with this command (and run a worker to process the Redis Queues).

Just to note, there are also commands to get rid of data. Check:

$ flexmeasures delete --help

Check out the CLI Commands documentation for more details.

Visualize the data model

You can visualise the data model like this:

$ make show-data-model

This will generate a picture based on the model code. You can also generate picture based on the actual database, see inside the Makefile.


If you encounter “error: externally-managed-environment” when running make test and you do it in venv, try pip cache purge or use pipx.


Maintenance is supported with the alembic tool. It reacts automatically to almost all changes in the SQLAlchemy code. With alembic, multiple databases, such as development, staging and production databases can be kept in sync.

Make first migration

Run these commands from the repository root directory (read below comments first):

$ flexmeasures db init
$ flexmeasures db migrate
$ flexmeasures db upgrade

The first command (flexmeasures db init) is only needed here once, it initialises the alembic migration tool. The second command generates the SQL for your current db model and the third actually gives you the db structure.

With every migration, you get a new migration step in migrations/versions. Be sure to add that to git, as future calls to flexmeasures db upgrade will need those steps, and they might happen on another computer.

Hint: You can edit these migrations steps, if you want.

Make another migration

Just to be clear that the db init command is needed only at the beginning - you usually do, if your model changed:

$ flexmeasures db migrate --message "Please explain what you did, it helps for later"
$ flexmeasures db upgrade

Get database structure updated

The goal is that on any other computer, you can always execute

$ flexmeasures db upgrade

to have the database structure up-to-date with all migrations.

Working with the migration history

The history of migrations is at your fingertips:

$ flexmeasures db current
$ flexmeasures db history

You can move back and forth through the history:

$ flexmeasures db downgrade
$ flexmeasures db upgrade

Both of these accept a specific revision id parameter, as well.

Check out database status

Log in into the database:

$ psql -U flexmeasures --password -h -d flexmeasures

with the password from flexmeasures/ Check which tables are there:


To log out:


Transaction management

It is really useful (and therefore an industry standard) to bundle certain database actions within a transaction. Transactions are atomic - either the actions in them all run or the transaction gets rolled back. This keeps the database in a sane state and really helps having expectations during debugging.

Please see the package for details on how a FlexMeasures developer should make use of this concept. If you are writing a script or a view, you will find there the necessary structural help to bundle your work in a transaction.