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. 

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.

The ‘Disagreement’ in climate sc…

The ‘Disagreement’ in climate science between 4 competing institutions.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!