Factsheet: Energy in the United Kingdom

Published on 12.23.2021

2 min read

High School
History, geography and geopolitics

The Basics

What Energy Sources Are Consumed in the United Kingdom?

consumption in the United Kingdom broke down as follows in 2020: 

Natural gas 37.8 %
Oil 34.6 %
Renewables 17.4 %
Nuclear 6.5 %
2.7 %
Hydro 0.9 %
  • Total primary energy consumption (6.89 exajoules – EJ) decreased by 11% due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, particularly affecting transportation.
  • Natural gas, for the first time since 2010, became the largest fossil primary energy source, while oil consumption plummeted by 22% (the COVID-19-induced decline in aviation activity was responsible for 47% of this decrease).
  • generation increased by 10% to 1.2 EJ, largely due to a rise in wind generation, which grew by 17% to 0.7 EJ.
  • Renewables for the first time amounted to 17.4% of the primary .

Source:

  1.  BP Statistical Review of World Energy  2021, 70e édition

 

What Is This Energy Used For?

Here is a table detailing each sector’s share of final energy consumption as a %:

Transportation Biofuels, Waste, Oil 33.44%
Residential Gas, 32.46%
Manufacturing Gas, Electricity, Oil 17.36%
Commercial (offices, services, business) Gas, Electricity, Oil 16.74%

Source:

  1. U.K. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

 

How Is Electricity Generated in the United Kingdom?

Electricity generation breaks down as follows by energy source (as a %):

Renewables* 40.87 %
Gas 36.49 %
Nuclear 16.09 %
Hydro 2.08 %
Coal 1.73 %
Oil 0.29 %
Other 2.46 %

* Of which:

 -Wind: 59.15 %

-Solar : 10.02 %

-Other ( , , biofuels, etc.): 30.83 %

 

  • Fossil fuels no longer dominate power generation.
  • Total power generation has been steadily decreasing since 2010. In 2020, it fell by 4% compared with 2019, partly as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis.
  • Renewable power generation rose due to unusually high wind speeds in the first quarter of 2020.

 

The country’s electricity is generated:

  • By wind farms, and more specifically by wind assets. The United Kingdom is the world leader in offshore wind.
  • By thermal power plants (nuclear reactors, gas-fired plants and a small number of oil-fired plants).
  • By coal-fired power plants, although these will be phased out by 2024.
  • By hydropower plants, such as the Dinorwig and Ffestiniog facilities in Wales.

Source :

  1.  BP Statistical Review of World Energy  2021, 70e édition

 

How Much CO2 Does the United Kingdom Emit?

This chart shows the change in CO2 emissions since 2000 (in metric tons of CO2 per capita):

  United Kingdom E.U.-28
2000 12.5 10.8
2005 11.9 10.8
2010 10.1 9.8
2015 8.3 8.8
2016 7.8 8.7
2017 7.7 8.7
2018 7.5 8.6
2019 7.3 8.2

CO2 emissions are decreasing faster than in the rest of Europe as a whole. While U.K. emissions were originally much higher than the E.U. average, they had fallen to 0.9 metric tons per capita below the average in 2019. This figure should be analyzed in relation to the greater share of renewables in the energy mix.

Source:

  1.  Eurostat, based on information from the European Environment Agency (EEA)

 

Future Challenges

What Are the United Kingdom’s Objectives?

1. Achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This objective was the subject of a 2019 amendment to the 2008 Climate Change Act, which previously aimed to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

2. Start a green industrial revolution.

 

How Can They Be Achieved?

1. By permanently removing coal from the U.K. energy mix by 2024.

2. By progressively electrifying all economic sectors, including transportation.

3. By developing wind power, especially offshore wind, and increasing its generation capacity to 40 gigawatts by 2030.

4. By placing new energy technologies and innovation at the center of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.

5. By investing in nuclear.

 

Quick Quiz: Energy and You

  1. Where is the world’s largest offshore wind farm? 

    Dogger Bank, a sandbank in the U.K. North Sea. This farm will host the world’s largest wind turbine, GE’s Haliade-X, measuring 260 meters high, with a 220-meter rotor, 107-meter-long blades and a 38,000-cubic-meter swept area.
     
  2. The sale of gasoline and vehicles in the United Kingdom will soon be banned. When? 

    In 2030, i.e., ten years before the deadline initially chosen by the government (France and Spain have given themselves until 2040). 
     
  3. What is the green industrial revolution promised by Boris Johnson? 

    It is a ten-point plan that provides for initiatives such as a widespread shift to electric cars, an increase in wind power generation capacity, investments in nuclear power and production, housing and public building insulation and heating upgrades, and support for carbon capture and storage initiatives. This revolution is expected to create 250,000 jobs.
     
  4. What is the impact of the gas price spike that hit the United Kingdom in late September 2021? 

    With gas being the second most used energy source for power generation, the country was forced to restart coal-fired power plants that had been mothballed ahead of complete shutdown. Faced with this climate-compromising situation, Boris Johnson’s government announced on October 3, 2021, that fossil fuels would no longer be used to generate electricity by 2035.
     
  5. What is the name of the nuclear power plant whose construction officially began in 2018? 

    Hinkley Point C, an extension of the existing Hinkley Point A and Point B power plants located in Somerset. EDF Energy (the U.K. subsidiary of French utility EDF) is in charge of building two EPR reactors. Hinkley Point A was permanently shut down in 2015, and Hinkley Point B will be retired starting in 2022. Hinkley Point C is slated to come on stream in 2026.

 

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