Education + Resources, Energy + Environment, Research

DOE Will Not Publish 2007 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, Suspends 2011 CBECS

The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, produced by the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy (DOE), provides incredibly valuable information about how commercial buildings use energy and energy-using systems such as lighting and HVAC.

If you wanted to know things like, “How many office buildings are in the Northeast?” or “What is the total square footage of healthcare buildings?” or “What is the average age of education buildings?” or “How much do Western retail buildings spend on energy?” or “What is the average power density for industrial buildings?” or “How much square footage built before 1980 received a lighting upgrade?” you could find it in the CBECS.

After the 2003 survey was published, I was ready in 2007 to analyze and write stories about the new data. Unfortunately, it wasn’t published that year, nor the next, nor the next. I wrote to DOE and found out that there was a problem with the data, and that publication was imminent.

Recently, I received a notice from DOE that the 2007 CBECS did not yield valid statistical estimates for building counts, energy characteristics, consumption and expenditures, and therefore will NEVER be published. Instead, DOE is expected to develop key energy indicators for commercial buildings as part of development of the Annual Energy Outlook.

DOE reports:

“Factors contributing to this outcome include the use of a cheaper but experimental survey frame and sampling method by EIA’s prime contractor, design errors in the construction of the method and selection of common building types, and an inability to monitor and manage its use in a production survey environment. EIA has reviewed and introduced significant changes in its procurement and project management standards that will prevent this type of loss in the future.”

As always, cheap means risk.

But wait, it gets worse.

Because of FY2011 funding cuts (about 14% from DOE’s FY2010 budget), work on the 2011 CBECS has been suspended.

Below is a list of other cuts. To me, this is completely misguided on the part of Congress. Energy is the most important issue in the USA, and will only become even more important in a future of growing scarcity. Our current prosperity is partly attributable to decades of access to cheap energy. Our foreign policy is married to it. We have fought wars to ensure cheap access to it. It is a critical component of our economy, impacting the price and availability of almost everything we buy, and its use is a key contributor to global warming, which affects all life on the planet. As a country, we cannot enact effective policies if we cannot measure.

It begs the question, how can we afford things like building schools in Iraq and bailouts for banks, but we cannot afford to properly measure production and use of the most important resource on the planet?

Oil and Natural Gas Information

* Do not prepare or publish 2011 edition of the annual data release on U.S. proved oil and natural gas reserves.
* Curtail efforts to understand linkages between physical energy markets and financial trading.
* Suspend analysis and reporting on the market impacts of planned refinery outages.
* Curtail collection and dissemination of monthly state-level data on wholesale petroleum product prices, including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, propane, residual fuel oil, and kerosene. Also, terminate the preparation and publication of the annual petroleum marketing data report and the fuel oil and kerosene sales report.
* Suspend auditing of data submitted by major oil and natural gas companies and reporting on their 2010 financial performance through EIA’s Financial Reporting System.
* Reduce collection of data from natural gas marketing companies.
* Cancel the planned increase in resources to be applied to petroleum data quality issues.
* Reduce data collection from smaller entities across a range of EIA oil and natural gas surveys.

Electricity, Renewables, and Coal Information

* Reduce data on electricity exports and imports.
* Terminate annual data collection and report on geothermal space heating (heat pump) systems.
* Terminate annual data collection and report on solar thermal systems.
* Reduce data collection from smaller entities across a range of EIA electricity and coal surveys.

Consumption, Efficiency, and International Energy Information

* Suspend work on EIA’s 2011 CBECS, the Nation’s only source of statistical data for energy consumption and related characteristics of commercial buildings.
* Terminate updates to EIA’s International Energy Statistics.

Energy Analysis Capacity

* Halt preparation of the 2012 edition of EIA’s International Energy Outlook.
* Suspend further upgrades to the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS). NEMS is the country’s preeminent tool for developing projections of U.S. energy production, consumption, prices, and technologies and its results are widely used by policymakers, industry, and others in making energy-related decisions. A multiyear project to replace aging NEMS components will be halted.
* Eliminate annual published inventory of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States.
* Limit responses to requests from policymakers for special analyses.

In addition to these program changes, EIA will cut live telephone support at its Customer Contact Center.

  • Kevin Willmorth May 31, 2011, 9:56 AM

    Energy production and consumption is a free enterprise activity. Depending on the federal government as the sole source of valuable information for environmental and energy use statistics does not fit the free market model, thus can be cut at will. It’s not about schools in some dirt lot overseas, but a question of our priorities as a nation in regard to energy use and stewardship or resources.

    We’ve been down this road before. We wiped out the whales for their oil, without regard for the demise of the species and the industry as a whole. We’re now hammering away at natural gas, coal and oil in exactly the same manner… burn it as fast as we can find it, ignoring all implications of this myopic pursuit, until we are in the throws of the crisis it will inevitably lead us into. We’re no smarter now than we were in 1850, we just think we are.

    If its about trade-offs, I’d personally prefer the DOE stop meddling in the lighting industry with its SSL programs, grants, etc… and use those funds to produce usable statistical energy use data, which are far more value to us all across all technologies and energy uses.

  • Kathryn M. Conway May 31, 2011, 10:07 AM

    This is dismal news for the USA. Without statistically valid baseline data, we cannot set targets or measure progress on curbing the use of fossil fuels. We will not be able to create a workable energy policy if we do not know how where and how much we are consuming now. Worse yet, we lose some of the valuable evidence we need to make a case for federal (and state) government support of energy-saving measures and technologies. Curtailing federal energy data collection LEAVES US IN THE DARK! Please contact your elected officials in the U.S. House and Senate to demand a more responsible approach from the Department of Energy. Also contact your state officials to let them know that without federal data, states have little hope of benchmarking their own energy-saving efforts.

  • RICHARD PALMERI May 31, 2011, 12:52 PM

    What in the world made anyone think that any department of the government, ours or any for that matter, that; could-a, should-a , might have produced a report that we the people could count on. I’m sure we paid for all the reports streaking from here to the moon, and all written with little care for accuracy or time.
    We are awash in a sea of complacency and bureaucratic theft. Everyone is so busy trying to get whats available for no. 1 , and listening to their i pod or text-G their most likely source of self gratification that nothing gets done with any attention to detail.
    No one, but no one understands or subscribes to ethical responsibility, we have no SHINTO > this is our problem.
    whats the answer / DOE XYZ AND ALFABET SOUP – seems like an opportunity for a smart young company that has enough lawyers to fight the lobbyists that fight for those in government who never do their JOBS.

  • Dennis M July 19, 2011, 7:25 PM

    As is typical Kevin makes some good points- He IS a industry
    insider who’s highly regarded- Kathryn’s point is well taken also.
    That the information exists should be regarded as D’uh its”available”
    the days of having it be compiled by DOE & then made available FREE!
    HAVE evidently replaced by; A “info consortium” big biz + Gov’t
    have the use documented, typically time stamped. Its in some entities data bank & THEN there is a price tag set on this intel.Its
    viewed as this intel NOW a commodity.Should public info be a sellable
    thing, there is a whole other discussion. However unpalatable – info
    is a commodity, its capitalism over Altruism this time!

  • Brad October 12, 2011, 11:20 AM

    The government always did this successfully. It was when it was handed to a contractor that it failed.


LEDucation 2023
LightFair 2023
IALD Enlighten Europe
Lightovation – Dallas Market Center
2023 IES Annual Conference
Click For More


Coming Soon - to list your position here, please contact Suelynn at








%d bloggers like this: