Natural Resources Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Office of Energy Efficiency Links


Office of Energy Efficiency


Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada, 1990 to 2008

PDF Version | Table of Contents | Next Page

Chapter 4: Commercial/Institutional Sector

Overview — Commercial/Institutional energy use and GHG emissions

In Canada, floor space for the entire commercial/institutional sector is equivalent to about 40 percent of the total residential floor space.

In 2008, commercial business owners and institutions spent $28.0 billion on energy to provide services to Canadians. This represents approximately 3 percent of the value of GDP related to this sector. In 2008, this sector was responsible for 14 percent of the total energy use (Figure 4.1) in Canada and produced 13 percent of the associated GHG emissions (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.1 — Total energy use by sector, 2008 (percent).

Figure 4.2 — Total GHG emissions by sector, 2008 (percent).

In the commercial/institutional sector,5 energy is used for space heating, cooling, lighting, water heating, as well as operating auxiliary equipments (such as computers) and motors. Space heating accounts for the largest share of energy use with about half of the total energy used (Figure 4.3). Street lighting included in total energy use is excluded from the factorization analysis because it is not associated with floor space activity.

Figure 4.3 — Commercial/Institutional energy use by end-use, 2008 (percent).

The commercial/institutional sector includes activities related to trade, finance, real estate, public administration, educational and commercial services. These activities have been grouped into 10 subsectors (see Figure 4.4 for a complete listing of activities). Of these activities, offices, retail trade and educational services account for 70 percent of the total Canadian commercial/institutional floor space, which in 2008 was estimated at 698.3 million .

Figure 4.4 — Commercial/Institutional floor space by activity type, 2008 (percent).

Trends — Commercial/Institutional energy use and GHG emissions

Between 1990 and 2008, the commercial/institutional sector was the fastest growing sector with respect to energy use and GHG emissions.

From 1990 to 2008, total commercial/institutional energy use increased 39 percent, from 867.0 PJ to 1,205.9 PJ, including street lighting. At the same time, GDP for the commercial/institutional sector grew 73 percent and floor space grew 37 percent. The GHG emissions, including electricity-related emissions, associated with the sector’s energy use increased 38 percent over the same period.

While natural gas and electricity continue to be the main energy sources for the commercial/institutional sector, accounting for 87 percent of total energy use (Figure 4.5), rapid growth in petroleum products has been observed since 1999 — especially in consumption of heavy fuel oil, which increased 179 percent. One reason for these product increases may be secondary distribution of fuel marketers who are included in the commercial/institutional sector but find their way out of the sector through re-sellers to industry and transportation. A special survey is currently being conducted by Statistics Canada to help account for this activity.

Figure 4.5 — Commercial/Institutional energy use by fuel type and floor space, 1990 and 2008.

The proliferation of auxiliary equipment such as computers, faxes and printers added to energy use in Canada since 1990.

As shown in Figure 4.6, seven end-uses were responsible for the growth in commercial/institutional energy use. This growth is consistent with the overall increase in commercial/institutional floor space in Canada, except for street lighting, which does not relate to floor space activity.

Energy used for space heating increased 22 percent between 1990 and 2008. While space heating continues to be the primary end-use in the sector, two other end-uses have shown large increases in energy requirements: auxiliary equipment, resulting from increasing computerization of work spaces; and space cooling, resulting from a higher cooling rate of commercial/institutional buildings (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6 — Commercial/Institutional energy use by end-use, 1990 and 2008.

Office activities drove most of the increased demand for energy in Canada’s commercial/institutional sector.

As shown in Figure 4.7, the office subsector accounted for the largest share of energy use in 2008 (35 percent). Retail trade (17 percent) and educational services (13 percent) were the next largest users. Offices also had the largest increase in energy consumption, using 149.9 PJ more energy in 2008 than in 1990, followed by retail trade and educational services which saw increases of 61 and 40 PJ, respectively.

Figure 4.7 — Commercial/Institutional energy use by activity type, 1990 and 2008.

Thirteen million people worked in Canada’s commercial/institutional sector in 2008.6

Several indicators can help describe the growth of energy use in the commercial/institutional sector, including the number of employees, floor space and GDP. Figure 4.8 shows that floor space increased 37 percent from 1990 and the number of employees in this sector increased 40 percent.

While some gains in energy efficiency were made in terms of overall energy per floor space, this was offset by an increase in energy requirements for auxiliary equipment. Not only was there an overall increase in computerization of the work environment in the commercial/institutional sector during this period, but the actual number of devices required increased per employee.

Figure 4.8 — Commercial/Institutional energy indicators, 1990 and 2008.

Commercial/Institutional energy intensity and efficiency

Energy intensity

Accommodation and Food Services is the most energy-intensive commercial/institutional activity.

In the commercial/institutional sector, energy intensity refers to the amount of energy used per unit of floor space (GJ/).

Figure 4.9 — Commercial/Institutional energy intensity by activity type, 1990 and 2008.

As shown in Figure 4.9, accommodation and food services consumed 2.60 GJ/ in 2008, followed by health care and social assistance, which consumed 2.57 GJ/. They are the most energy-intensive activity types despite a slight decrease observed in the energy intensity related to the accommodation and food services subsector. This may be attributable to the energy-demanding nature of their activities (restaurants, laundry) and services (extensive hours of operation), as well as the proliferation of electronic equipment with high energy requirements (such as medical scanners).

The commercial/institutional sector as a whole experienced a small increase in energy intensity of 2 percent in terms of energy consumed per unit of floor space (GJ/). However, the sector reduced its energy intensity by 20 percent when measured against economic activity (PJ/GDP).

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency improvements in Canada resulted in energy savings of $2.4 billion in the commercial/institutional sector since 1990.

Energy efficiency improvements in the commercial/institutional sector were very similar to those in the residential sector. They include changes to the thermal envelope of buildings (insulation, windows, etc.) and increased efficiency of various energy-consuming items in commercial/institutional buildings such as furnaces, auxiliary equipment and lighting. The estimated energy efficiency improvements have resulted in a 103.6 PJ energy savings for this sector between 1990 and 2008 (Figure 4.10).

Figure 4.10 — Commercial/Institutional energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990—2008.

Figure 4.11 illustrates the influence that various factors had on the change in commercial/institutional sector energy use between 1990 and 2008. These effects are as follows:

  • activity effect — A 37 percent increase in floor space led to 38 percent (322.5 PJ) growth in energy use and an increase of 17.5 Mt in GHG emissions.

  • structure effect — The effect of structure changes in the sector (the mix of activity types) was small and thereby had marginal effect on change in GHG emissions.

  • weather effect — In 2008, the winter was colder but the summer was warmer than that of 1990. The net result was a 9.3-PJ increase in energy demand in the commercial/institutional sector, mainly for space conditioning, which had the effect of increasing GHG emissions by 0.5 Mt.

  • service level effect — An increase in space cooling and in the service level of auxiliary equipment, which is the penetration rate of office equipment, (e.g. computers, fax machines and photocopiers), led to a 111.5 PJ increase in energy use and a 6.0-Mt increase in GHG emissions.

  • energy efficiency effect — Improvements in the energy efficiency of the commercial/institutional sector saved 103.6 PJ of energy and 5.6 Mt of GHG emissions.

Figure 4.11 — Impact of activity, structure, weather, service level and energy efficiency on the change in commercial/institutional energy use, 1990–2008.

5 Among the sectors presented in this document, the commercial/institutional sector has the most significant data limitations.
6 Commercial/Institutional sector emcompasses all services-producing industries in Canada,
NAICS 41-91.

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page