The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is the primary government agency responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating energy statistics. A section of the 1977 Department of Energy Organization Act established EIA as the single federal government authority for energy information. The law states:
The Administrator shall be responsible for carrying out a central, comprehensive, and unified energy data and information program which will collect, evaluate, assemble, analyze, and disseminate data and information which is relevant to energy resource reserves, energy production, demand, and technology, and related economic and statistical information, or which is relevant to the adequacy of energy resources to meet demands in the near and longer term future for the Nation’s economic and social needs.1
Under EIA’s current organizational structure, the energy consumption surveys are housed in the Office of Energy Consumption and Efficiency Statistics, under the assistant administrator for energy statistics. (See http://www.eia.gov/about/organization_chart.cfm [December 2011] for EIA’s current organization structure.) Other units in the energy statistics division are responsible for collecting and disseminating information related to energy supply. These units are organized around energy types—the Office of Electricity, Renewables, and Uranium Statistics; the Office of Oil, Gas and Coal Supply Statistics; and the Office of Petroleum and Biofuels Statistics.
1 P.L. 95-91, 42 U.S.C.A. § 7135(a)(1).
Energy consumption and efficiency analysis activities are part of a separate office, under the assistant administrator for energy analysis.
Although the EIA organizational structure has undergone several changes since the establishment of the agency, the primary mission of the unit responsible for the consumption surveys has always been to collect and disseminate information about the demand and consumption of energy (French, 2007). The energy consumption and efficiency statistics unit organizes its work around energy-use sectors, including commercial, residential, and manufacturing, as described below:
Commercial: The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) covers energy consumption in the commercial sector. For its consumption surveys, EIA defines a building as a structure that is completely enclosed, with walls that extend from the foundation to the roof, and a commercial building as a building intended for human occupancy, in which at least half of the floor space is used for a purpose that is not residential, industrial, or agricultural. Based on the definition used by EIA, institutional and organizational buildings such as schools, libraries, correctional institutions, and houses of worship are included in the CBECS. On the other hand, unenclosed energy-consuming structures, such as street lights, pumping stations, and billboards, are not included. Some enclosed structures not intended for human occupancy are also excluded, such as cooling towers and monuments.
Residential: The Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) covers energy consumption in occupied, primary housing units. Vacant and seasonal housing is not included, nor are group quarters, such as prisons, nursing homes, and college dormitories.
Manufacturing: The Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS) accounts for energy consumption by manufacturing establishments with five or more employees. Energy consumption by non-manufacturing industrial sectors such as agriculture, mining, and construction is not captured by the MECS.
From 1983 to 1994 EIA’s Residential Transportation Energy Consumption Survey (RTECS) collected data on energy consumption by household highway vehicles, which account for nearly a third of domestic energy consumption, but a lack of funding caused this survey to be discontinued
despite the importance of the sector. Another energy-use sector not currently covered by any of EIA’s energy consumption surveys is energy suppliers.
EIA’s funding is based on annual appropriations from Congress, with the President’s budget request for EIA falling under the authority of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on energy and water development. The 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPACT, P.L. 102-486) introduced a requirement to conduct surveys of residential and commercial energy consumption at least every three years, and a survey of manufacturing energy consumption every two years, but EIA never had the funding necessary to follow the mandated frequencies (French, 2007). In the mid 1990s the CBECS, RECS, and MECS were moved to a quadrennial schedule, and as discussed, the RTECS was discontinued.
The panel’s charge for this study was to review EIA’s energy consumption surveys in the commercial and residential sectors. The panel did not evaluate the availability of energy consumption data in any of the other sectors. However, data users voiced concerns related to the lack of adequate energy consumption data in the transportation field in particular. It appears that although there are efforts to fill the gap (for example, by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and by states that produce their own estimates), there is a need for national, standardized data on energy consumption in the transportation sector, comparable to the data produced by the CBECS and RECS in the commercial and residential sectors.
EIA interprets the EPACT reference to the collection of residential energy consumption data as a directive to conduct the RECS. However, an external review of the surveys conducted in 2006 argued that the directive includes the collection of household transportation data—in other words, the RTECS as well (French, 2007). The 2009 RECS incorporated a small number of new questions on household transportation, but it is difficult to imagine that the already lengthy RECS could accommodate more questions on this topic.
The year 2011 was especially challenging for EIA, and particularly for the CBECS. After a lengthy delay in the processing of the 2007 CBECS, which had been based on a new design that was expected to be more cost effective, EIA announced, “Because the data do not meet EIA standards for quality, credible energy information, neither data tables nor a public use file will be released” (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011e). A second blow came in the form of a significant budget cut, when despite the President’s budget request of $129 million, the fiscal year 2011 budget provided only $95.4 million for EIA, a reduction of 14 percent from the
previous year (U.S. Department of Energy, 2011b). The budget cut led to the unfortunate suspension of work on the 2011 CBECS, which had just been awarded to a new data collection contractor.2 The panel assumes that reinstating the CBECS will be a priority in fiscal year 2012, given the lack of alternative sources of information about commercial buildings in the United States.
2 EIA’s energy consumption surveys are conducted by data collection contractors. EIA’s involvement and the division of responsibilities between the organizations have varied over the years. Typically, the data collection contractor performs the sample design and selection activities, hires and trains interviewers, collects the data, and prepares the cleaned and weighted files for EIA. For the CBECS, EIA currently does the editing, imputation, estimation, and modeling in house. For the RECS, EIA does only the modeling in house.