Data
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

Decc data: Five charts on where the UK gets its power, coal and gas from

Damian Kahya
Damian is Energydesk's editor
Wind park Gunfleet Sands in the North Sea
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Paul Langrock / Greenpeace

UK power generation from renewable sources reached a record high of 15% last year, according to the latest government data.

The increase in low-carbon power generation helped reduce coal burning in 2013.

Gas imports also fell by around 2.5% as gas struggled to compete with coal on price and renewables reduced both coal and gas generation. 

But overall the data showed the UK is having to import more and more of the fossil fuels it uses - pushing energy imports to a record high.

The data shows much of the UK's gas comes from Norway with a third of our coal coming from Russia. Here are five key charts which where we get our power from and how it's changing. 

1) Renewable generation reached record as efficiency rises

 Generation from renewables rose by 28% last year compared to the year before, with offshore wind generation up by nearly half.  

The rise pushed the share of the UK’s power mix that comes from renewables, such as wind and solar, from around 11% to 15%.

When you throw nuclear into the mix - which also had a good year due to fewer shutdowns - more than a third of our power came from low carbon sources in 2013.

At the same time homes and business in the UK became more efficient in how they used energy but really not by very much. 

The rise in renewable generation also meant that energy used to produce energy (odd phrase, but think burning gas to power a gas power plant) fell in absolute terms - by 0.6%.

Whilst a cold start to the year pushed up total energy use by 0.5% in 2013, it fell on a weather adjusted basis (taking changes of weather compared to the year before into consideration).

2) Coal and gas power generation both fell

As a result of the rise in low carbon generation the total share of the UK’s power mix coming from fossil fuels fell in 2013.

Coal generation fell the most sharply - down 3% - but still made up more than a third of the power we use.

Generation from gas plants also fell by nearly 1% to around 27% as high gas prices mean it continues to lose out to coal and - at times of high wind speeds - renewable generation.

3) Which saw gas imports fall as production decreased

More renewable generation, lower consumption for power and high gas prices relative to coal all meant we used - and so imported - less gas last year.

Gas demand fell by nearly 1% with most of fall coming from reduce gas use in the power sector. That, combined with lower exports (yes, we both import and export gas) drove down imports by 2.5%.

The UK imports about half the gas it uses with most of our gas coming from Norway. Gas imports by ship from the Arab Emirate of Qatar fell very sharply last year - by more than a third.

At the same time as gas use and imports fell - so did domestic gas production - by 6.5%. It meant that overall gas use and gas production both dropped by around the same amount.

4) But overall energy imports reached a record high

In fact even as we generate more power from renewable energy less and less of the fossil fuels we burn come from the UK.

We don’t just import gas. In fact, if we want to worry about imports from Russia than we should probably be even more concernedd about coal imports from Russia.

A record drop in coal production (down by a quarter) meant we imported more coal with Russian coal now making up about a third of all the coal the UK uses, mostly to generate power.

Oil production from the North Sea also continued its steady decline all of which meant that UK import dependency rose to its highest level since 1975.

5) And bills rose

Increasing demand for energy, higher gas prices and new costs on bills - including the cost of government energy efficiency measures and renewables - pushed up bills in 2013.

The average electricity bill rose by £35 to £577 whilst the average gas bill - more closely linked to commodity prices - rose by £43 to £729.

The latest government data doesn’t break down the increases - but we’ve got lots more on that here.

 

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