Detailed, complete, timely and reliable statistics are essential to monitor the energy situation at a country level as well as at an international level. Energy statistics on supply, trade, stocks, transformation and demand are indeed the basis for any sound energy policy decision.
For instance, the market of oil – which is the largest traded commodity worldwide – needs to be closely monitored in order for all market players to know at any time what is produced, traded, stocked and consumed and by whom.
In view of the role and importance of energy in world development, one would expect that basic energy information to be readily available and reliable. This is not always the case and one can even observe a decline in the quality, coverage and timeliness of energy statistics over the last few years.
There are several reasons behind the decline of quality in energy statistics, including liberalisation of the market, additional data requests, budget cuts and diminishing expertise. The liberalisation of the energy markets, for instance, has had a double impact on statistics. First, where statisticians in the past could obtain detailed information on one fuel (gas or electricity) from a single national utility company, they now have to survey tens, if not hundreds, of companies to have a comprehensive view of a sector. Secondly, a competitive market often leads to confidentiality issues that add to the difficulty of collecting basic information.
Additional data have been requested from energy statistics offices over recent years. They include a large spectrum of information ranging from statistics on renewables to indicators on energy efficiency and data on greenhouse gas emissions. This additional workload occurred at a time when statistics offices in many countries were experiencing a reduction in their resources. Sometimes the reduction has been dramatic and the number of staff cut by half.
There is no one miracle solution to stop the current erosion in data quality, coverage and timeliness. However, it is clear that statistics and statisticians should be fully integrated in the energy policy decision-making process of a country.
Knowing the importance of a sound energy information system, the International Energy Agency has embarked upon a programme of actions to reverse the current trends by developing tools to facilitate the preparation and delivery of reliable statistics, thus raising the profile of energy statistics in countries.
Strengthening the expertise and experience of energy statisticians, and rebuilding corporate memory are key priorities. This is the reason why the International Energy Agency, in co-operation with the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat), has prepared this Energy Statistics Manual. The Manual will help newcomers in the energy statistics field to have a better grasp of definitions, units and methodology.
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