An introduction to UK energy consumption

sci:

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Having previously
explored the various ways in which energy is supplied in the UK, this article
highlights UK energy consumption by fuel type and the sectors it is consumed
in. 

But before proceeding, it is important to first distinguish between the
terms ‘primary
energy consumption
’ and ‘final energy consumption’. The
former refers to the fuel type in its original state before conversion and
transformation. The latter refers to energy consumed by end users.

Primary energy consumption by fuel type

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Oil consumption is on the decline.

In 2018, UK primary
energy consumption was 193.7 m tonnes of oil equivalent. This value
is down 1.3% from 2017 and down 9.4% from 2010. This year, the trend has
continued so far. Compared to the same time period last year, the first three
months of 2019 have shown a declination of 4.4% in primary fuel consumption.

It
is also important to identify consumption trends for specific fuels. Figure 1 below illustrates the percentage increases and
decreases of consumption per fuel type in 2018 compared to 2017 and 2010.

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Figure 1 shows UK Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel Type in 2018 Compared to 2017
& 2010.
 Figure: BEIS

As can be seen in
2018, petroleum and natural gas were the most consumed fuels. However, UK coal
consumption has dropped by almost 20% since 2017 and even more significantly
since 2010. But perhaps the most noticeable percentage change in fuel
consumption is that of renewable fuels like bioenergy and wind, solar and hydro
primary electricity. 

In just eight years, consumption of these fuels increased by
124% and 442%, respectively, thus emphasising the increasingly important role
renewables play in UK energy consumption and the overall energy system.

Final energy consumption by sector

Overall, the UK’s final energy consumption in
2018, compared to 2017, was 0.7% higher at a value of approximately 145
m tonnes of oil equivalent. However, since 2010, consumption has still
declined by approximately 5%. More specifically, figure 2 illustrates consumption for individual sectors
and how this has changed since.

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Figure 2 from UK Final Energy Consumption by Sector in 2018 Compared to 2017 &
2010.
 Figure: BEIS

Immediately, it is
seen that the majority of energy, consumed in the UK, stems from the transport
and domestic sector. Though the domestic sector has reduced consumption by 18%
since 2010, it still remains a heavy emitting sector and accounted for 18% of
the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. 

Therefore, further efforts
but be taken to minimise emissions. This could be achieved by increasing
household energy efficiency and therefore reducing energy consumption and/or switching to alternative fuels.

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Loft insulation is an example of increasing household energy efficiency.

Overall, since 2010, final energy consumption
within the transport sector has increased by approximately 3%. In 2017, the
biggest percentage increase in energy consumption arose from air transport. 

Interestingly, in 2017, electricity consumption in the transport sector
increased by 33% due to an increased number of electric vehicles on the road.
Despite this, this sector still accounted for one-third of total UK
carbon emissions in 2018.  

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Year upon year,
the level of primary electricity consumed from renewables has increased and the percentage of
coal consumption has declined significantly, setting a positive trend for years to come.

Reace Edwards is a member of SCI’s Energy group and a PhD Chemical Engineering student at the University of Chester. Read more about her involvement with SCI here or watch her recent TEDx Talk here. 

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