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Effective Tracking of Building Energy Use
meeting its mandate difficult—and sometimes impossible. Figure 1-1 shows EIA’s funding levels between 1978 and 2011.
EIA’s portfolio of data collections includes three surveys of energy-consuming end use sectors: the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), and the Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey. Prior to 1994, EIA also conducted a transportation energy use survey, the Residential Transportation Energy Consumption Survey, but budget cuts forced this data collection to be discontinued after 1994.
EIA asked the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Committee on National Statistics, with input from its Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, to convene a panel to study two of these surveys, the CBECS and RECS, which cover the commercial and residential end use sectors. The panel’s charge was to evaluate the designs of the two surveys and recommend updates based on current and expected future data needs. (See Box 1-1 for the exact wording of the panel’s charge.)
The CBECS and RECS were established in response to the energy shocks of the 1970s, which highlighted the need for coordinating the nation’s energy functions and for a comprehensive federal energy plan. At the time policy makers had accurate data regarding the sources of our energy (coal, petroleum, etc.) but had only crude guesses about how that energy was used to carry out basic functions such as space heating, lighting, and refrigeration. While the 1970s energy crisis is a distant memory to many, threats to energy security persist and are likely to persist for the foreseeable future. Mitigating these threats requires reliable information on how energy is used.
Today the energy used by the commercial and residential sectors represents approximately 40 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption, and the share of these two sectors is expected to increase in the future, in large part because of the 5.8 quadrillion Btu growth expected over the next 25 years in the commercial sector, shown in Figure 1-2 (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011c). On the other hand, various federal and local policies have been put into place with the goal of reversing this trend and reducing overall energy use to a more sustainable level. The importance of a thorough understanding of how commercial and residential buildings use energy has therefore never been greater. Only with good quality data can policy makers, industry, and consumers respond effectively to a variety of challenges, ranging from the mundane to potentially catastrophic scenarios.
The energy consumption surveys of EIA are the most relevant sources of data available to policy makers seeking to make informed decisions and plan for the future by, for example, ensuring that energy production is in line with needs and that savings opportunities are identified wherever possible. Congress and the executive branch relied on EIA data to inform analyses evaluating the impact of the American Power Act of 2010, which was proposed to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (U.S. Department of Energy, 2011b). EIA data also informed an analysis of several provisions of the discussion draft of the Domestic Manufacturing and Energy Jobs Act of 2010 (U.S. Department of Energy, 2011b).