Which UK businesses use the most energy?

19 January 2021

As the UK’s population continues to grow, the demand for goods and services is rising. But what impact is this having on the energy sector, and which businesses are responsible for consuming the highest amount of gas and electricity to keep up with the growing demand?

In 2019, the total amount of energy consumed in the UK fell by 1%, from 142,724 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) in 2018 to 142,000 mtoe. And this decline was seen across the board, with industry, transport, domestic and commercial business users consuming less energy compared to the previous year.

Of course, there are many reasons for this, not least the absence of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ – a severe cold weather front which affected all parts of the country in early 2018, driving up fuel consumption. But what else affected energy use in 2019? And which businesses and sectors consumed the most over the 2018-19 period?

Here, we’re taking a look at where energy is being used across the UK, with stats and data to show which industries, sectors and businesses consume the most gas, electricity and fuel per year. Explore our guide to UK energy statistics using the links below.

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The UK’s top 10 business energy consumers

For quick reference, the UK’s top 10 biggest business energy consumers are:

  1. Commercial and miscellaneous services – 14,615 ktoe
  2. Public administration – 5,579 ktoe
  3. Manufacturing and industrial services – 3,615 ktoe
  4. Chemical manufacturing – 3,502 ktoe
  5. Food, drink and tobacco manufacturing – 2,967 ktoe
  6. Mineral products manufacturing – 2,582 ktoe
  7. Printing and publishing – 1,831 ktoe
  8. Agriculture – 1,505 ktoe
  9. Mechanical engineering – 1,513 ktoe
  10. Iron, steel and metal manufacturing – 1,497 ktoe

UK energy consumption breakdown

UK fuel mix 2018-2019

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Which businesses use the most energy?

While energy consumption varies from sector to sector in the UK - in 2019, most industries saw a drop in overall energy use. Here, we look at the industries, sectors and businesses that consume the most energy, as well as the types of fuels they typically use.

Goods and services

The goods and services sector accounted for 15% of total energy consumption in 2019. Here’s how energy use was split across the sector:

And here’s the fuel mix for the sector:

  • Commercial and miscellaneous services
    • Electricity – 43%
    • Natural gas – 34%
    • Other fuels – 23%
  • Public administration
    • Electricity – 27%
    • Natural gas – 57%
    • Other fuels – 16%
  • Agriculture
    • Electricity – 24%
    • Natural gas – 6%
    • Other fuels – 70%

Manufacturing and industrial

The manufacturing and industrial sector accounted for 16% of total consumption in 2019. Here’s how energy was used across different businesses and industries:

  • Manufacturing and industrial services – 16%
  • Chemical manufacturing – 16%
  • Food, drink and tobacco manufacturing – 13%
  • Mineral products manufacturing – 12%
  • Paper, printing and publishing – 8%
  • Mechanical engineering – 7%
  • Iron, steel and metal manufacturing – 7%
  • Other industries – 7%
  • Vehicle manufacturing – 5%
  • Electrical engineering – 4%
  • Civil engineering/construction – 3%
  • Textiles/leather manufacturing – 2%


And here’s the fuel mix for the sector:

  • Electricity – 35%
  • Natural gas – 39%
  • Other fuels – 26%


Takeaways on the state of UK energy use

From data published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it’s clear that the way the UK consumes energy is changing. Since 1970, there has been a dramatic shift away from non-renewable fuels like coal, while alternative fuels like bioenergy continue to grow – with an increase in consumption across all sectors.

Here are five key takeaways from BEIS’ state of energy use in the UK report that you need to know.

  • Energy consumption dropped in 2019 compared to the previous year, with all sectors contributing to the decrease. Overall, the UK used 1% less energy in 2019 than it did in 2018.
  • Energy consumption in the industrial sector fell most sharply, with a 2.8% decrease across all sectors. Vehicle manufacturing saw the biggest drop in energy use, consuming 5% less energy than the previous year.
  • The services sector saw a 0.7% drop in energy consumption, a decline driven predominantly by the public sector, which used 2.1% less energy than in 2018. However, the agriculture sector bucked the downward trend, consuming 1.4% more energy in 2019.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, total energy consumption fell by 11%. In fact, energy consumption across the country is now below figures recorded in 1970 by around 3%.
  • From 2018 to 2019, the energy ratio fell by 2.6%. That means increased efficiencies reduced the volume of energy required to underpin GDP – a positive result that indicates we’re moving in the right direction.

As touched on above, many factors affect overall energy consumption, not least the weather, which is why energy consumption varies greatly from sector to sector. But despite the decline in 2019, it’s important to remember that as the population of the UK continues to rise, the demand for energy will rise with it – so we can certainly expect increased energy consumption in the future.

What’s more, the tumultuous events of 2020 are certain to have had a significant impact on both domestic and commercial energy use. With the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, we’ll be interested to review what the UK’s energy consumption looks like for the 2019-2020 period.


Data Source: Energy consumption in the UK


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