Obama Budget a Step in the Right Direction For Energy Data

February 23, 2010

Media Contact(s):

R. Neal Elliott, 202-507-4009, Senior Director for Research

Washington, D.C. — The Obama Administration demonstrated its support for energy efficiency through better data collection with the release of its 2011 budget request on February 2, 2010. A new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released today, Where Have All the Data Gone? The Crisis of Missing Energy Efficiency Data, applauds this commitment and encourages Congress and the Administration to think comprehensively about better funding for the statistical agencies that collect energy data.

ACEEE’s new report documents current gaps in federal data collection and outlines a path forward beginning with recommendations for appropriators in FY 2011. All levels of government and many types of businesses rely upon accurate energy efficiency analyses in order to shape policy and outline business growth plans. Dependable analyses are grounded in good energy and market data, much of which has historically been collected by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and other governmental data agencies.

The President’s FY2011 budget request provides for a long-overdue increase in funds for the EIA, an independent research agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for collecting information about end-use consumption, energy efficiency programs, and energy resources. This budget increase of $18 million above the previous year’s budget of $110 million represents a good trend towards better data collection but, as the report demonstrates, funding for energy data collection should see sustained increases in the years ahead. Similarly, the report points out the need for expanded funding by other federal data collection entities such as the Census Bureau and the Federal Highway Administration.

 “If data collection frequency is reduced or data are not collected, there is no way in the future to go back and accurately fill in these missing data,” stated Rachel Gold, lead author of the report and ACEEE research staff. “Our report demonstrates the importance of improving the frequency, sample size, and geographic distribution of energy use data, to ensure that new and existing policies can be implemented well.”

“Timely collection and publication of consistent, comprehensive energy use surveys data are necessary to understand the trends in energy use and the impact of existing and proposed public policies,” said ACEEE board member Dr. Maxine Savitz. “In addition, more detailed data, and data collected more frequently, are needed to better assess the status and prospects for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

Recently, the importance of accurate energy use data has grown due to increased interest in using energy efficiency policies to promote job creation using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA or “stimulus”) and potential funding in pending jobs and climate legislation. In order to accurately quantify the energy and financial impacts of these policies, reliable metrics must be employed, and these require good data.

“Having good data is critical to sound energy investment planning,” said Dr. Neal Elliott, ACEEE Associate Director for Research and co-author of the report. “Overestimates of energy demand growth made in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in costly overinvestment in electricity generation capacity and infrastructure. Going forward, underestimates of the impacts of energy efficiency could again result in overinvestments in electricity generation and transmission capacity."

“Businesses also rely heavily on EIA data to plan investments and manage energy use,” said Elliott. “A major business concern with climate legislation is what the impact will be on energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries. As a recent administration study on the topic indicated, the manufacturing energy and market data are insufficient to accurately assess this question or support policies need to remedy the impacts.”

“In the past twenty years, Congress has consistently under-funded EIA and other data collection agencies, leading to spotty and uneven data quality, and resulting in information gaps that impede good analysis,” stated Steven Nadel, ACEEE Executive Director. “We urge Congress to support the President’s commitment to better data collection in his budget.”

ACEEE has compiled data on EIA funding levels over the past 32 years.  This data can be downloaded here.

The full report, Where Have All the Data Gone?, is available for free download here or a hard copy can be purchased for $20 plus $5 postage and handling from ACEEE Publications, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20045, phone 202-507-4017.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. 2010 marks ACEEE’s 30th anniversary as an organization. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit aceee.org.