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How We Collected Data Using the 2018 CBECS Energy Supplier Survey

Release date: April 12, 2023

We conducted the Energy Supplier Survey (ESS) as a follow-up step to collect energy usage and cost information for buildings who completed the Buildings Survey. During the ESS, we contacted suppliers of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil (which includes diesel and kerosene), and district heat (steam or hot water). We provided suppliers with the addresses and account numbers (where available) for each building that we were requesting data for.

The 2018 ESS included more cases than the 2012 ESS because we requested ESS data for all buildings, not just those for which building respondents could not provide data or provided data that failed our edits, as was done for the 2012 ESS. The main reason that the data were collected in both the Buildings Survey and the ESS was to minimize burden on building respondents by only requesting annual data from them and gathering the monthly data from the ESS. We continued to collect consumption data in the Buildings Survey because in some situations, building respondents are better suited to provide the data, such as a single building on a campus where a supplier might only have data for the whole campus or might not be able to distinguish the building we are requesting data for.

The ESS data collection began in April 2020, about a month later than planned, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. An ESS data collection website offered the energy suppliers multiple reporting options: an interactive data collection web page, an Excel spreadsheet that could be downloaded and completed by the supplier and submitted online, an option to create and submit their own electronic file through the website, or the option to print out the data collection forms and mail them to the survey contractor. The majority of submissions (87%) were made using a file upload, either using the provided Excel spreadsheet or the supplier’s own format. The online data collection form was used for 13% of submissions. Less than 1% of submissions were mailed.

The 2018 ESS collected monthly energy usage and cost information for 16 billing periods covering November 2017 through February 2019. For buildings with multiple accounts, suppliers were given the option to provide data at the whole building level or for each account within the building.

We contacted 610 suppliers during 2018 CBECS ESS data collection, including 317 electric utilities, 174 natural gas utilities, 101 heating oil distributors, and 18 district heat suppliers. The number of ESS cases (11,792 cases) was greater than the number of buildings surveyed in the 2018 CBECS (6,436 buildings) because buildings may have more than one energy supplier. In addition, for strip shopping centers, we collected energy data at the individual establishment level rather than the building level, and we treated responding sampled establishments within strip shopping centers as separate cases. See How we collected data for strip shopping centers in the 2018 CBECS for more information about data collection in strip shopping centers.

Unlike the voluntary CBECS Buildings Survey, response to the ESS is mandatory. The supplier-level response rate was higher than 90% for both electricity and natural gas. Nonresponse was more common at the case level, mostly in situations where suppliers could not locate the customer in their records or the building’s supplier could not be determined. The next tables show response by energy source at both the supplier level and the case level.

Table 1. Energy Supplier Survey (ESS) response at the supplier level
Status of ESS data Electricity Natural gas Fuel oil District heat Total
Complete: At least one customer assigned to supplier has a complete code 303 165 83 14 565
Nonresponse: All customers are nonresponse or out of scope 14 9 18 4 45
Total 317 174 101 18 610
Response rate 96% 95% 82% 78% 93%
Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey.
Table 2. Energy Supplier Survey (ESS) response at the case level
Status of ESS data Electricity Natural gas Fuel oil District heat Total
ESS data received  5,581 3,910 113 106 9,710
No ESS data 1,208 837 33 8 2,086
Total 6,789 4,747 146 114 11,796
Response rate 82% 82% 77% 93% 82%
Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey.

Data collection ended in October 2020. We reviewed and processed the supplier billing data as described in How We Reviewed Data to Ensure Quality of the 2018 CBECS.