Posted on: 08/01/2019
Shifts in economic activity and energy efficiency improvements have seen electricity generation in the UK fall to its lowest level for a quarter of a century.
Analysis by the Carbon Brief website found that 335TWh of electricity was generated last year, continuing a fall which started in 2005 and which has now seen it reach its lowest level since 1994. A reduction in per-capita generation has saved 103TWh of power since 2005.
The same figures showed that the UK generated a third of its electricity from renewable sources in 2018, hitting a record high. Adding in nuclear power took low carbon’s share of production up to 53%, passing the halfway mark for the first time. Renewable output has risen by 95TWh since 2005.
Economy and population growing
The fall in UK electricity output came despite the economy and population continuing to grow, demonstrating a “decoupling” between electricity production and economic growth, which analysts attributed to several factors.
“They include product energy efficiency regulations, energy-efficient lighting, environmentally conscious consumers and economic restructuring, including offshoring of energy-intensive industries,” Carbon Brief said.
“There is significant untapped potential to continue cutting electricity use by replacing old appliances at the end of their lives with the latest models.
“There will also have been some impact from rising electricity prices since 2003 in the face of rapidly increasing wholesale gas prices, economic hardship following the 2008 financial crisis and price increases due to the growing costs of government climate and social policies – in contrast to rising electricity and gas prices, average UK energy bills have fallen overall since 2008.”
Shift from manufacturing to services
The report noted manufacturing had fallen from 17% of the UK economy in 1990 to 11% by 2005, holding steady at 10% in 2017, with manufacturing output growing since the 2008 global banking crisis.
“This shift towards a service-led economy initially saw growing imports of goods and their associated carbon dioxide emissions,” Carbon Brief said.
“However, the outsourcing of UK emissions stopped growing around 2007.”
Energy UK’s chief executive, Lawrence Slade said the figures underline “just how much the energy industry has transformed itself in recent years by moving to cleaner, decarbonised sources of power."
“We need to maintain and accelerate this progress, so it is vital the cheapest forms of renewables like solar and onshore wind can contribute fully to our decarbonisation drive without further delay.”