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Key takeaways from the latest UK energy statistics release - including record renewable electricity use

Electricity from renewable energy sources hit record levels, while coal output has never been so low, according to the latest UK energy statistics published by the government

Coal is declining, more energy is being imported and renewable electricity has hit record figures - these are just some of the key takeaways of the latest UK energy statistics.

The UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published figures for the country’s energy production and consumption in 2017.

They illustrate the effects of Britain’s ongoing transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, but how demand for power is rising across various industries.

BEIS released four key publications under the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics 2018 last month. They are:

Shea Karssing, of business consultancy service Smarter Business, has examined the key points from the latest UK energy statistics.


Key points of UK energy statistics report

  • Primary energy production rose by 0.4% between 2016 and 2017. This increase was driven by growth in energy input from solar, wind, hydro, waste and bioenergy.
  • Coal output was at a record low.
  • Final energy consumption (excluding non-energy use) fell by 0.7% due to a decreased demand for heating. When adjusted for temperature, however, energy consumption rose by 0.9%.
  • Electricity from the UK’s renewable energy sources reached a record 29.3% of the UK’s total electricity generation. This is 4.8% higher than the previous year and is a result of:
    • 6% rise in renewable generation capacity to 40.6 gigawatts (GW)
    • Higher average wind speeds.
  • The share of low-carbon electricity generation increased from 45.6% to 50.1% - a new record driven by the increase in renewables generation.
  • BEIS estimates that overall emissions fell by 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) (3.2%) to 366.9 MtCO2 between 2016 and 2017, driven by the changes in electricity generation.


The decline of coal

coal power, factory

Coal output fell to a record low level, down by 27% in 2017 to a low of three million tonnes - a third of its 2015 levels. In 2015, coal’s share of the UK’s energy generation was 22%, declining to 9% in 2016, and then to 7% in 2017.

This was mostly because one of the biggest surface mines is under maintenance and has not produced coal since April 2017.

Also, the higher carbon price for coal meant that gas production was favoured over coal production as coal generation became more expensive than gas.

The consumption of coal in the UK decreased by 20% in 2017, with a 28% decrease in coal consumption by the dominant power producers who use 61% of the total coal demand.

In 2017, coal accounted for 6.7% of the electricity generated in the UK, down from 9% in 2016. Last year, domestic users accounted for just 3.8% of total coal consumption.


Imported energy

Imported energy rose by 1.2% in 2017, but this is down from a record level of 16% in 2013. Crude oil from Norway accounts for 47% of imports, with the country also the key source for imported gas.

Overall, the UK remained a net energy importer of all main fuel types (36%) last year, down marginally from 2016.


UK’s main energy consumption statistics

UK primary energy consumption continued on its downward trends from the last ten years - falling by 1.2% in 2017, down 0.3% on a temperature-adjusted basis.

This decline was due to the UK’s switch in energy generation from coal to renewable energy sources.


UK energy statistics for consumption by sector

Logistics, lorry

  • Industrial sector - 1.6% increase in energy consumption
  • Chemicals sub-sector - 7% increase in energy consumption
  • Construction - 5.9% increase in energy consumption
  • Food, drink, and tobacco - 3.5% increase in energy consumption
  • Vehicles sub-sector - 2.9% increase in energy consumption
  • Transport sector - 0.9% increase in energy consumption
  • Agricultural sector - 3.4% increase in energy consumption
  • Private commercial sector - 1% decrease in energy consumption
  • Public sector - 1.7% decrease in energy consumption

Domestic energy consumption

Domestic energy consumption decreased by 3.7%, reflecting warmer average temperatures - particularly during the heating season.

Temperature-corrected, however, domestic energy consumption saw a 0.3% increase.

Since 2000, energy consumption has fallen by 14%. This has occurred even though the number of households has increased by 15% and the population has increased by 12%.

This means that, per household, energy consumption has fallen by 26%.


Main electricity generation and supply statistics

Demand for electricity fell in 2017, leading to a 1% decrease in the total supply of electricity in the UK in 2017.

The final consumption of electricity in the UK fell to 300.7 terawatt-hours (TWh), representing the lowest level since 1995.

  • Largest electricity consumer: domestic sector (105.4 TWh) - although this is 2.4% lower than 2016
  • Industrial sector (92.6 TWh) - an increase of 0.9%
  • Service sector consumed (97.8 TW) - 1.5% lower than 2016.

UK energy statistics highlight the rise of renewables

Notably, 2017 marked a record high of renewable energy generation, which further displaced fossil fuel generation.

Renewable energy generation rose by 19% in 2017 to a record 99.3 TWh.

It now comprises 29.3% of the UK’s total energy production in 2017 (up 4.8% from 2016)

This was due to:

  • A 14% increase in renewable capacity.
    • Energy from solar sources rose by 11%
    • Energy from hydro sources rose by 10%
    • Onshore wind capacity increased by 18%
    • Together, onshore and offshore wind represent almost half (48%) of the UK’s renewable electrical capacity.
  • Higher average wind speeds than 2016.
    • Onshore wind increased by 39%
    • Offshore wind increased 27%

A summary of UK energy statistics for 2017

Although final energy consumption decreased in 2017, the temperature-adjusted statistics show a rise of 0.9%.

A number of records were set in 2017, with coal output at a record low, and electricity from the UK’s renewable energy sources reaching a record 29.3% of total electricity generation.

The share of low carbon electricity generation increased from 45.6% to 50.1%, another new record driven by the increase in renewables generation.