The Commercial Energy Consumer: About Whom Are We Speaking?

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Date Published


LBNL Report Number



Who are commercial sector customers, and how do they make decisions about energy consumption and energy efficiency investment? The energy policy field has not done a thorough job of describing energy consumption in the commercial sector. First, the discussion of the commercial sector itself is dominated by discussion of large businesses/buildings. Second, discussion of this portion of the commercial sector s consumption behavior is driven primarily by theory, with very little field data collected on the way commercial sector decision-makers describe their own options, choices, and reasons for taking action. These limitations artificially constrain energy policy options. This paper reviews the extant literature on commercial sector energy consumption behavior and identifies gaps in our knowledge. In particular, it argues that the primary energy policy model of commercial sector energy consumption is a top-down model that uses macro-level investment data to make conclusions about commercial behavior. Missing from the discussion is a model of consumption behavior that builds up to a theoretical framework informed by the micro-level data provided by commercial decision-makers themselves. Such a bottom-up model could enhance the effectiveness of commercial sector energy policy. In particular, translation of some behavioral models from the residential sector to the commercial sector may offer new opportunities for policies to change commercial energy consumption behavior. Utility bill consumption feedback is considered as one example of a policy option that may be applicable to both the residential and small commercial sector.

Conference Name

2006 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings

Year of Publication


Conference Location

Asilomar, CA