The UK government has published its Energy Trends data 2018, which provides an insight into the changing trends in UK energy production and consumption. The latest data shows that total energy production has increased for three consecutive years, albeit with a modest increase in 2017 of 0.4%. This increase is attributed to gas, bioenergy, wind, solar, and hydro. Meanwhile, coal output fell to a record low in 2017, while oil and nuclear output were also reduced. Total net imports increased by 0.9%, but because this was accompanied by an increase in exports, net import dependency fell by 0.5% to 35.8% in 2017. The UK’s reliance on energy imports is watched closely because of the implications it has for energy security. Temperatures in 2017 were on average 0.3 degrees warmer than a year earlier. This factor affected total energy consumption, which was 1% lower than in 2016. When adjusted for the warmer temperatures, it is estimated that consumption actually rose by 0.5%.
Renewable electricity generation was at a record high of 98.9 TWh in 2017 due to increased capacity and higher wind speeds. For the first time, low-carbon generation (renewables plus nuclear) stood at more than half of the generation mix, at 50.4%. Coal-fired generation has declined in recent years as a combination of emission limits and carbon taxes have made coal plants uneconomic to run. Support mechanisms for renewables and an increase in gas supply have also played a part.
Provisional estimates show that greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3% between 2016 and 2017, primarily driven by the change in the generation mix. This translates to a 43% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, which goes beyond the UK’s target of a 37% reduction by 2020. Most of the progress to date has been made by the power generation sector, followed by efficiencies made by industrial processes and by business. For the UK to meet its next emissions target of a 51% reduction by 2025, improvements will need to take place in the transport and heat sectors. The use of electric vehicles and the injection of low-carbon gas into the grid are some examples of steps that will help to achieve the 2025 and 2030 targets.