The commercial sector consists of non-manufacturing business establishments. Included are hotels, motels, restaurants, wholesale businesses, retail stores, laundries, and other service enterprises; health, social, and educational institutions; and federal, state, and local governments. Streetlights, pumps, bridges, and public services are also included. Fuel used in motor vehicles for commercial purposes is included in the transportation sector. Examples of common uses of energy in the commercial sector include space heating, water heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, and cooking.
For the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, a net total or net energy consumption (less electrical system energy losses) is provided to indicate the energy actually consumed by these sectors. In addition, energy consumed in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity (electrical system energy losses) is allocated to each sector based on the electricity consumed by the sector. Thus, total energy consumption represents the energy consumed by the sector as well as that used to provide electricity to the sector.
From 2010 to 2011, commercial sector net energy use decreased 2.3 percent to 66.6 trillion British thermal units (Btu). Total energy use in the sector decreased 3.8 percent to 135.8 trillion Btu. Petroleum use decreased 6.1 percent although it comprises only 3.2 percent of the energy used by the commercial sector. Renewable energy use decreased 40 percent and electricity use decreased 4.1 percent from 2010 while natural gas use increased 1.1 percent. Residual fuel consumption was small enough to round to zero in this table for the years 1983–1986, 1996, 2002, 2007, and 2011. Coal consumption was small enough to round to zero in this table for the years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
In 2011, almost all (96 percent) of the commercial sector's energy needs were met by natural gas and electricity. Petroleum products made up 3.2 percent of the energy consumed in the commercial sector, and 1.1 percent was renewable energy.
Solar thermal and photovoltaic energy consumption cannot be separated between the residential and commercial sectors. The numbers are reported in the residential sector.