UK energy use at lowest level in a quarter century

The amount of electricity generated in the UK last year fell to its lowest level in a quarter-century, according to a Carbon Brief analysis.

Lower consumption was joined by record output from renewable sources, generating an estimated 33 per cent of the UK total in 2018. In combination with nuclear, low-carbon sources contributed 53 per cent of UK generation in 2018, with the share from fossil fuels at its lowest ever.

The combination of lower per-capita use and cleaner supplies have contributed roughly equal shares to the reduction in power sector CO2 emissions since demand peaked in 2005 - even though both the economy and population have grown.

The last time UK generation was this low was in 1994, and overall, the amount of electricity generated per person in the UK has fallen by 24 per cent since 2005, down to its lowest level since 1984 (34 years). This is despite the growth in the economy, and as Carbon Brief admits, the reasons for this decoupling are not fully understood. However, product energy efficiency regulations, energy-efficient lighting, environmentally conscious consumers and economic restructuring, including offshoring of energy-intensive industries are all likely contributory factors.

There will also have been some likely impact from rising electricity prices since 2003 in the face of rapidly increasing wholesale gas prices, economic hardship following the 2008 financial crisis and price increases due to the growing costs of government climate and social policies.

A similar, if a less extreme version of decoupling of GDP and electricity use has been taking place in many other developed countries too, as their economies shift away from energy-intensive industries towards services and high-value manufacturing. This includes the US, where electricity demand has been flat for a decade after more than half a century of uninterrupted growth.

Carbon Brief’s analysis of UK electricity generation in 2018 is based on figures from BM Reports, Sheffield Solar and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Full Carbon Brief Report here.

    Share Story:

Recent Stories