the RECS has not experienced the same extraordinary challenges in recent years as the CBECS has, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) was able to release the data from the 2009 RECS much faster than in previous years, in part by releasing a preliminary public-use microdata file—with a limited number of variables—in October 2011.
Rotating Panel Design for the RECS
Just as with the CBECS, a rotating sample design would be a suitable option for addressing data users’ need for quicker and more frequent access to data from the RECS. Rotating design options were discussed in detail in Chapter 5. Briefly, the new approach would involve collecting the data over a four-year period instead of once every four years. This would enable annual data releases, with the new data released each year combining with data from the previous three years to add up to the same total sample size as is now provided by RECS once every four years. Ideally, a subset of the sample would be followed over time to create a longitudinal data set that would lead to an improved capability to analyze trends and changes. Specific options for a sample design are discussed in Chapter 5 in connection with the CBECS, and the approach most suitable for the RECS would have to be evaluated. An overall assessment of the costs and benefits of introducing a rotating sample design should receive priority as part of EIA’s near future plans for the RECS as well.
Recommendation RECS-1: EIA should evaluate the usefulness of implementing a rotating sample design for the RECS to improve the timeliness of the data.
Recommendation RECS-2: EIA should consider integrating a longitudinal element into the RECS sample design to obtain better estimates of change.
RECS Multimode Data Collection
As with the CBECS, the RECS should be gradually transitioned to a multimode data collection effort, in part to enable faster processing and release times. The panel acknowledges that many of the existing procedures will have to be modified and simplified in order to make it possible to have a more rapid turnaround. The current set of editing steps is one example