Which UK businesses use the most energy?

How do the industry's energy generators measure up? The different business types go head-to-head below.

12 September 2019

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?

From 2017 to 2018, the overall amount of energy consumed in the UK grew by 1.1%. While the arrival of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ – a severe cold weather front which affected all parts of the country in early 2018 – is partly responsible for the increase, the percentage change also reflects a growing demand for energy across all industries and sectors.

Here, we’re taking a look at where energy is being used across the UK, with stats and data to show which industries, businesses and local regions 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 – 14,575 ktoe
  2. Public administration – 5,647 ktoe
  3. Manufacturing and industrial services – 3,774 ktoe
  4. Chemical manufacturing – 3,668 ktoe
  5. Food, drink and tobacco manufacturing – 3,110 ktoe
  6. Mineral products manufacturing – 2,689 ktoe
  7. Printing and publishing – 1,890 ktoe
  8. Agriculture – 1,584 ktoe
  9. Mechanical engineering – 1,567 ktoe
  10. Iron, steel and metal manufacturing – 1,507 ktoe

UK energy consumption breakdown

In 2018, the UK consumed 142,724 kilotonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe), a 1.1% increase on the previous year and the highest amount of energy since 2013. Here’s where it was used:

  • Transport – 40%
  • Domestic – 29%
  • Industry – 16%
  • Services – 15%

UK fuel mix 2017-2018

While energy comes from lots of sources, the UK has three primary fuels:

  • Solid fuels, petroleum and bioenergy – 51%
    • 73,173 ktoe – 0.03% decrease on previous year
  • Natural gas – 31%
    • 43,787 ktoe – 4% increase on previous year
  • Electricity – 18%
    • 25,765 ktoe – Same as previous year

Which UK businesses use the most energy?

Energy consumption varies from sector to sector in the UK, with some experiencing year-on-year growth and others, decline. Here, we look at the industries, sectors and businesses that consume the most power, as well as the types of fuels they typically use.

Goods and services

The services sector accounted for 15% of total consumption in 2018.

  • Commercial and miscellaneous services – 67%
  • Public administration – 26%
  • Agriculture – 7%

Sector fuel mix

  • Commercial and miscellaneous services
    • Electricity – 44%
    • Natural gas – 33%
    • Other fuels – 23%
  • Public administration
    • Electricity – 28%
    • Natural gas – 56%
    • Other fuels – 16%
  • Agriculture
    • Electricity – 23%
    • Natural gas – 6%
    • Other fuels – 71%

Manufacturing and industrial

The industrial and manufacturing sector accounted for 16% of total consumption in 2018.

  • Manufacturing and industrial services – 17%
  • Chemical manufacturing – 16%
  • Food, drink and tobacco manufacturing – 14%
  • Mineral products manufacturing – 12%
  • Printing and publishing – 8%
  • Mechanical engineering – 7%
  • Iron, steel and metal manufacturing – 7%
  • Other industries – 6%
  • Vehicle manufacturing – 5%
  • Electrical engineering – 3%
  • Civil engineering/construction – 3%
  • Textiles/leather manufacturing – 2%

Sector fuel mix

  • Electricity – 35%
  • Natural gas – 40%
  • Other fuels – 25%

Please Note: The above map data is for 2015-2016 (source) – the most recent currently available. We will update this information as new data is publicly released.

UK business energy consumption by region

Here’s a map of total business energy consumption across the UK, taking into account industrial and commercial energy use.

    • Scotland – 4,883 ktoe
    • Northern Ireland – 746 ktoe
    • North West – 4,875 ktoe
    • North East – 3,224 ktoe
    • Yorkshire and The Humber – 4,632 ktoe
    • West Midlands – 3,283 ktoe
    • East Midlands – 3,032 ktoe
    • Wales – 3,819 ktoe
    • East – 3,247 ktoe
    • South West – 2,694 ktoe
    • South East – 5,102 ktoe

Please Note: The above data is for 2015-2016, the most recent statistics currently available (Source). We will update the above map once fresh data released.

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Takeaways on the state of UK energy use

From data published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, it’s clear that the way in which the UK consumes energy is changing. Since 1970, there has been a dramatic shift away from non-renewable fuels like coal (a decrease of 96%), while alternative fuels like bioenergy continue to grow – with an increase in consumption across all sectors.

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

  • The demand for energy in the UK continues to grow, with total energy consumption increasing by 1.1% between 2017-18.
  • Consumption of natural gas grew by 1.6 mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent). The domestic sector consumed three-quarters of the UK’s total natural gas, due to severe weather in early 2018.
  • Consumption of bioenergy continues to increase, with all sectors using more in 2018 than the previous year. The transport sector reported the highest growth, with bioenergy now accounting for 3.3% of total road fuel.
  • The energy ratio fell by 2.4%, according to the DfBE&IS, thanks to increased efficiencies which have reduced the amount of energy needed to maintain each unit of GDP (£1 million).
  • Consumption of coal has fallen by 96% since 1970, as the UK looks to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral in line with government targets. In contrast, consumption of natural gas has increased more than tenfold, from 3,662 ktoe in 1970 to 43,787 ktoe in 2018.

Many factors affect overall energy consumption, not least the weather, which is why energy consumption varies greatly from sector to sector. But 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.

Data Source: Energy Consumption in the UK (ECUK) 2019 - GOV.UK

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