UK Energy Supply - About Energy Production in the UK

Despite the population growth of over 6 million since the early 1970s, energy consumption in the UK has declined. This is not, however, due to the lower demand for energy but rather due to dramatic improvements when it comes to energy efficiency in both use and production. But the decline of energy consumption in the country can also be attributed to an unprecedented decline of the manufacturing industries and expansion of financial, business and other service industries which consume far less energy. Industrial use of energy has thus dropped for more than 50 percent since 1970.

Energy Consumption Expected to Remain About the Same by 2030

The UK’s population is projected to continue to grow and by 2030, Britain will supersede France as the second most populous country in Europe. By 2050, the UK may even overtake Germany which is currently the largest country in Europe. Energy consumption, however, is expected to remain about the same, largely due to further improvements in energy efficiency.

How Energy is Produced in the UK and the Country’s Primary Sources of Energy

With the exception of renewables, Britain’s sources of energy are the same as in 1970. But the share of particular sources has changed dramatically. From 1970, the use of coal as a direct source of energy has fell from 57 million tonnes to as little as 3 million tonnes, largely due to the increased use of natural gas and electricity. The use of petrol, on the other hand, remained virtually unchanged.

There have been major changes in indirect energy sources as well. About one half of all electricity is produced by the use of coal which, however, is a significant decrease from 1970 when about two thirds of electricity came from burning coal. The use of oil has dropped even more dramatically - from over 13 million tonnes in 1970 to below 1 million tonne by 2010s. The use of coal and oil to generate electricity has fell especially in the last decade of the 20th century as a result of privatisation of the electricity supply industry and the shift to gas (“Dash for Gas”) by the newly created electric companies.

A Quick Glance into the Future

In the next years, the use of renewables - especially wind and solar energy - is expected to increase, both directly and indirectly. By year 2030, renewable energy is projected to account for as much as 40 percent of all energy used in the UK, including for production of electricity. Also, more energy will come from nuclear plants.