An introduction to UK energy consumption



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

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


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.

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.


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.


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


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.  


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. 

The light absorption of various colours.Black…

The light absorption of various colours.

Black, is the
complete absorption of light, while white, being its opposite, is the
complete reflection of light. This results in the black balloon
absorbing all of the energy focused from the sun’s light – and is
something to think about next time you choose your outfit on a hot
summers day.⠀

Researchers report new understanding of ther…

Researchers report new understanding of thermoelectric materials

The promise of thermoelectric materials as a source of clean energy has driven the search for materials that can efficiently produce substantial amounts of power from waste heat.

Researchers reported a major step forward Friday, publishing in Science Advances the discovery of a new explanation for asymmetrical thermoelectric performance, the phenomenon that occurs when a material that is highly efficient in a form which carries a positive charge is far less efficient in the form which carries a negative charge, or vice versa.

Zhifeng Ren, M. D. Anderson Chair Professor of Physics at the University of Houston, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH and corresponding author on the paper, said they have developed a model to explain the previously unaddressed disparity in performance between the two types of formulations. They then applied the model to predict promising new materials to generate power using waste heat from power plants and other sources.

Read more.

Greenpeace and BP oil rig standoff continues


Caption: Greenpeace boat alongside BP chartered rig in North Sea.           Credit: Greenpeace (all photos)

By Shardell Joseph

Greenpeace activists attempted to board a BP drilling rig being towed in the North Sea, overtaking the 27,000 tonne rig on their ship yesterday afternoon.

According to Greenpeace, the rig was approximately 20 miles short of the drilling site when it made a U-turn, heading back to where it came from in Cromatry, Scotland.

The activists attempted to re-board the BP rig for the fourth time in the early hours, but the vessel towing the rig sped away from them. The activists continued the pursuit – overtaking the rig at approximately 1pm. BP accused the group of putting people at risk through its ‘reckless’ actions.

There have been 14 arrests, including three photographers, since the activists first boarded the Transocean rig in the Cromatry Firth a week ago. With two police operations carried out to remove protestors, the structure managed to continue its way to BP’s Vorlich field, east of Aberdeen, on Friday night. Greenpeace vowed to continue its efforts to halt progress. BP served Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship with an injunction order on Friday.

Tweet By Greenpeace: Our climbers were arrested but the #BPShutdown continues. The @gp_sunrise is on its way to try to thwart BP’s plans at sea, and volunteers are protesting at petrol stations across the UK.
This is not over, @BP_plc.

The standoff between the climate change activists and BP continued onto its eith day yesterday, as activists continue to stop BP’s plans to drill a new well in the Vorlich oil field, which would give BP access to 30 million barrels of crude.

Greenpeace’s latest activities come after Pope Francis warned oil bosses gathered in Rome on Friday that when “faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “BP’s oil rig has done a U-turn and we urge chief executive Bob Dudley to do the same. BP must stop drilling for new oil and switch to renewables.

‘Pope Francis is absolutely right about the climate emergency. We must take action to save future generations from a “brutal injustice”. And we are.

‘BP told the Pope on Friday that they want to find the answer to the climate problem. Wherever that answer may lie it’s certainly not in drilling new wells to access 30 million barrels of oil at the bottom of the North Sea.

‘This is why BP will face opposition wherever they plan to drill for more oil, from the North Sea to the Arctic and from the mouth of the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico. We have tried letters, meetings, petitions – none of that worked. Now we’re going to stand in BP’s way to prevent further harm to people at the sharp end of the climate crisis.

‘In the long run, this is a confrontation BP can’t win. They are in it for their profits – we’re in it for our planet’s future. BP must start ditching the climate-wrecking side of its business and switch to renewables.’

BP claimed to share the group’s concerns regarding climate change, but condemned its actions.

‘Reckless attempts by Greenpeace protestors to interfere with the rig while under transport risk the safety not only of those individuals but anyone responding,’ said a BP spokesperson.

‘There is also a clear and blatant breach of criminal law and the court orders in place against both Greenpeace and their vessel. Greenpeace is choosing to wilfully break the law.’

Six things you may not know about the UK’s ene…


Energy is critical to life. However, we must work to find
solution to source sustainable energy which compliments the UK’s emission targets. This article discusses six interesting facts concerning the UK’s diversified energy
supply system and the ways it is shifting towards decarbonised alternatives.

Finite Resources

1. In 2015, UK government announced plans to close unabated coal-fired
power plants by 2025.


A coal-fired power plant in Minnesota, US. Image: Tony Webster/Flickr

In recent years, energy generation
from coal has dropped significantly. In March 2018, Eggborough power station, North Yorkshire, closed, leaving only seven coal power plants operational in the UK. In May this
year, Britain set a record by going one week without coal power. This was the
first time since 1882!

2. Over 40% of the UK’s electricity supply comes from gas.


A natural gas search oil rig. Image: Pixabay

While it may
be a fossil fuel, natural gas releases less carbon dioxide emissions compared
to that of coal and oil upon combustion. However, without mechanisms in place
to capture and store said carbon dioxide it is still a carbon intensive energy

3. Nuclear power accounts for approximately 8% of UK energy supply.


Nuclear power
generation is considered a low-carbon process. In 2025, Hinkley Point C nuclear
power-plant is scheduled to open in Somerset. With an electricity generation
capacity of 3.2GW, it is considerably bigger than a typical power-plant.

Renewable Resources

In 2018, the
total installed capacity of UK renewables increased by 9.7% from the previous
year. Out of this, wind power, solar power and plant biomass accounted for

4. The Irish Sea is home to the world’s largest
wind farm, Walney Extension.


The Walney offshore wind farm. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In addition
to this, the UK has the third highest total installed wind capacity across
Europe. The World Energy Council define an ‘ideal’ wind farm as one which experiences
wind speed of over 6.9 metres per second at a height of 80m above ground.
As can be seen in the image below, at 100m, the UK is well suited for wind

5. Solar power accounted for 29.5% of total renewable electricity capacity
in 2018.


This was an
increase of 12% from the previous year (2017) and the highest amount to date! Such
growth in solar power can be attributed to considerable technology cost
reductions and greater average sunlight hours, which increased by up to 0.6
hours per day in 2018. 

Currently, the intermittent
availability of both solar and wind energy means that fossil fuel reserves are
required to balance supply and demand as they can run continuously and are
easier to control.

6. In
2018, total UK electricity generation from bioenergy accounted for
approximately 32% of all renewable generation.


A biofuel plant in Germany.

This was the
largest share of renewable generation per source and increased by 12% from the
previous year. As a result of Lynemouth power station, Northumberland, and another unit at Drax, Yorkshire, being converted from fossil fuels to biomass, there was a large increase in
plant biomass capacity from 2017.

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.

Major step forward in the production of &lsq…

Major step forward in the production of ‘green’ hydrogen

The first thermodynamically reversible chemical reactor capable of producing hydrogen as a pure product stream represents a “transformational” step forward in the chemical industry, the authors of a new study claim.

The novel reactor, described in the academic journal Nature Chemistry, avoids mixing reactant gases by transferring oxygen between reactant streams via a solid state oxygen reservoir.

This reservoir is designed to remain close to equilibrium with the reacting gas streams as they follow their reaction trajectory and thus retains a ‘chemical memory’ of the conditions to which it has been exposed.

The result is that hydrogen is produced as a pure product stream, removing the need for costly separation of the final products.

Read more.

Cooling wood: Engineers create strong, sustain…

Cooling wood: Engineers create strong, sustainable solution for passive cooling

What if the wood your house was made of could save your electricity bill? In the race to save energy, using a passive cooling method that requires no electricity and is built right into your house could save even chilly areas of the US some cash. Now, researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Colorado have harnessed nature’s nanotechnology to help solve the problem of finding a passive way for buildings to dump heat that is sustainable and strong.

Wood solves the problem—it is already used as a building material, and is renewable and sustainable. Using tiny structures found in wood—cellulose nanofibers and the natural chambers that grow to pass water and nutrients up and down inside a living tree—that specially processed wood has optical properties that radiate heat away. The results of this study were published May 9 in the journal Science.

“This work has greatly extended the use of wood towards high performance energy efficient applications and provided a sustainable route to combat the energy crisis,” said Northeast Forestry University Professor Jian Li, a member of Chinese Academy of Engineering, who is not associated with the research.

Read more.


Charging into the future: novel rock salt for use in rechargeable magnesium batteries

A unique method to use novel rock salt in rechargeable magnesium batteries

Life today depends heavily on electricity. However, the unrelenting demand for electricity calls for increasingly greener and “portable” sources of energy. Although windmills and solar panels are promising alternatives, the fluctuation in output levels depending on external factors renders them as unreliable. Thus, from the viewpoint of resource allocation and economics, high-energy density secondary batteries are the way forward. By synthesizing novel material (a metal compound) for electrode that facilitates reversing of the chemistry of ions, a group of researchers led by Prof. Idemoto from Tokyo University of Science combat the wasteful aspects of energy sources by laying an important foundation for the production of next-generation rechargeable magnesium secondary batteries. The researchers are optimistic about the discovery and state, “We synthesized a rock salt type that has excellent potential for being used as the positive electrode material for next-generation secondary batteries.”

The most popular source of portable energy, a battery comprises three basic components – the anode, the cathode, and the electrolyte. These participate in an interplay of chemical reactions whereby the anode produces extra electrons (oxidation) that are absorbed by the cathode (reduction), resulting in a process known as redox reaction. Because the electrolyte inhibits the flow of electrons between the anode and cathode, the electrons preferentially flow through an external circuit, thus initiating a flow of current or “electricity.” When the material in the cathode/anode can no longer absorb/shed electrons, the battery is deemed dead.

However, certain materials allow us to reverse the chemistry, using external electricity that runs in the opposite direction, such that the materials may return to their original state. Such rechargeable batteries are similar to the ones used in portable electronic devices such as mobile phones or tablets.

Read more.

Electrode’s ‘hot edges’ co…

Electrode’s ‘hot edges’ convert carbon dioxide gas into fuels and chemicals

A team of scientists has created a bowl-shaped electrode with ‘hot edges’ which can efficiently convert CO2 from gas into carbon based fuels and chemicals, helping combat the climate change threat posed by atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The research team, from the University of Bath, Fudan University, Shanghai, and the Shanghai Institute of Pollution Control and Ecological Security, hopes the catalyst design will eventually allow the use of renewable electricity to convert CO2 into fuels without creating additional atmospheric carbon – essentially acting like an electrochemical ‘leaf’ to convert carbon dioxide into sugars.

Using this reaction, known as the reduction of carbon dioxide, has exciting potential but two major obstacles are poor conversion efficiency of the reaction and a lack of detailed knowledge about the exact reaction pathway.

This new electrode addresses these challenges with higher conversion efficiency and sensitive detection of molecules created along the reaction’s progress – thanks to its innovative shape and construction. The bowl shaped electrode works six times faster than standard planar – or flat – designs.

Read more.

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