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Meet EIA Administrator, Adam Sieminski

1 November 2012 686 views No Comment
Amstat News invited Adam Sieminski of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to respond to the following questions so readers could learn more about him and the agency he leads. Look for other statistical agency head interviews in past and forthcoming issues.

Adam Sieminski served as a senior director on the staff of the National Security Council prior to becoming the administrator to the EIA. He is a member of the Washington, DC, investment professional society and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

What about this position appealed to you?

Although most of my career has been spent in the private sector, public service is something I’ve thought about for a long time and leading EIA is an honor. Energy is an exciting and important field—worth spending a career on. It is global in scope—with international and geopolitical dimensions—but very local as well, with the price at the pump affecting household budgets. As a customer of EIA for virtually my entire professional career, I can attest to the fact EIA’s mission is as critical today as when it was created by Congress in 1977. EIA is indispensible as the most important and authoritative source of information on energy, and it has an unrivaled reputation for fairness, even in this most political of cities.

Describe the top two or three priorities you have for the Energy Information Administration.

There are four basic principles that are guiding my efforts at EIA. First, we need to be innovative and creative, to find new ways to get better information faster and cheaper.

Better: We need to be sure, to the best of our ability, that what we are putting out is based on the best data and the best tools, and that when there’s an error, we own up to it and correct it quickly.

Faster: EIA has and will continue to find ways to streamline our approaches so we can get accurate data out to the public in a world in which the term “real-time” has become a way of life.

Cheaper: We all know about budget issues—and we also know that information technologies have become far more powerful and less expensive. If we do it right, system changes and upgrades can provide greater value and lowered costs.

Second, we need to promote best practices for data management. We need to find and adapt the best of what others are doing—that means other agencies as well as think tanks, academics, industry, and NGOs that are doing energy research.

Third, we need to make EIA data, analysis, and forecasting more readily available and accessible to stakeholders. EIA’s already moving in that direction with articles that are shorter, punchier, and more market relevant. We also need to improve EIA’s dissemination platform by providing a more flexible foundation. We are getting there, but there’s still much more we can do to expand our reach through interactive tools such as dynamic mapping, animation, and data visualization.

Fourth, I want EIA to be recognized as the exciting place it is so we can attract more good people. Young people just out of school, certainly, but also more senior people with experience in different parts of the energy sector, so that we can be on the cutting edge of data analysis, providing insights to our entire customer base, from policymakers and investors to homeowners and school kids.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) for EIA?

This is one of the most dynamic times I can remember for the energy sector, which leads to challenges for consumers, suppliers, policymakers, and the EIA. Our data collection must keep up with the rapidly changing energy landscape to avoid gaps in our knowledge. And our analyses must be both balanced and forward-looking enough to factor in the major forces remaking the energy world at an accelerating pace. And we must accomplish this in a time of increasing budgetary pressure. We are also looking at a substantial number of upcoming retirements—a problem facing the energy industry more broadly. One of the things I am going to be spending a lot of time on is trying to replace people as they retire and making sure we get the right mix of people.

How can the statistical community help you?

EIA is an active member of the community of federal statistical agencies, as well as the wider statistical community. Working with groups such as the Inter-Agency Council on Statistical Policy and the American Statistical Association encourages shared approaches to common challenges in statistical methodologies, data sharing, confidentiality, recruitment, and federal budget constraints.

EIA has a long-standing relationship with the ASA Committee on Energy Statistics, meeting twice each year to obtain advice on survey methodology and energy forecasting. Our meeting format involves pre-meeting interactions between EIA staff and the expert committee members.

This year, the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies (CNSTAT) issued Effective Tracking of Building Energy Use: Improving the Commercial Buildings and Residential Energy Consumption Surveys, which made recommendations to improve EIA’s largest consumption surveys. Our staff continues to work with the wider statistical community to engage the CNSTAT recommendations.

Prior to your tenure, what do you see as the biggest recent accomplishment of the agency?

We can have the best data and analysis in the world, but if we at EIA are not communicating it effectively to different audiences, they aren’t getting the full value of the work we are doing.

One recent innovation that has made EIA’s information more relevant and accessible is Today in Energy (TIE). TIE is timely and has drawn on all of our divisions. It covers a broad swath of ideas and has involved a huge cross-section of our people. It was a daily must-read for me when I was at Deutsche Bank and continued to be when I was at the White House. I’d like to see EIA build on that going forward. In the information-rich world we live in, we need to think of ourselves as the homepage for the energy marketplace.

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