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Use of energy explained  

How the United States uses energy

Americans use a lot of energy in homes, in businesses, and in industry, and to travel and transport goods. There are five energy-use sectors:

  • The industrial sector includes facilities and equipment used for manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction.
  • The transportation sector includes vehicles that transport people or goods, such as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, trains, aircraft, boats, barges, and ships.
  • The residential sector includes homes and apartments.
  • The commercial sector includes offices, malls, stores, schools, hospitals, hotels, warehouses, restaurants, and places of worship and public assembly.
  • The electric power sector consumes primary energy to generate most of the electricity to sell to the other four sectors.

In addition to primary energy use, the industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors also purchase and use most of the electricity (a secondary energy source) the electric power sector produces and sells. These four sectors are called end-use sectors because they purchase or produce energy for their own consumption and not for resale.

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Total energy consumption in the end-use sectors includes their primary energy use, purchased electricity, and electrical system energy losses (energy conversion and other losses associated with the generation, transmission, and distribution of purchased electricity) and other energy losses. Total electrical system energy losses are apportioned to each end-use sector according to each sector's share of total annual U.S. electricity purchases.

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U.S. energy consumption increased year over year in 49 of the 69 years from 1949 to 2018. In 2009, this general historical trend of year-over-year increases in energy consumption changed sharply because of the economic recession. In 2009, real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 2.5% compared with 2008, and total energy consumption decreased by nearly 5%, the largest single-year decreases in both real GDP and in total energy consumption from 1949 through 2009.

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In the nine years from 2010 through 2018, total annual energy consumption increased in five of the years and decreased in four of the years. In 2018, total U.S. energy consumption reached a record high of about 101 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), which was about 0.3% higher than the previous record-high consumption in 2007. Economic growth and other factors such as weather and fuel prices can influence consumption in each sector differently.

Last updated: August 28, 2019