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.
“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.