Renewable energy grows but UK still mostly dependent on fossil fuels
- 21 Dec 2012, 15:30
- Mat Hope
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) yesterday
released the latest
figures on the UK's energy use. They show an increase in the
share of power produced from renewable energy - but the UK is still
largely dependant on fossil fuels.
The Telegraph reports today that the amount of electricity
generated by wind power between July and September had
increased by more than a third on the same period last year,
record-high levels of electricity generated from renewable
sources set at the end of 2011. Meanwhile, the UK continues to
depend on fossil fuels - and coal in particular - to provide much
of its electricity.
The new statistics cover the period from the start of July to
the end of September this year.
Less dependency on fossil fuels for energy
Despite the bulk of energy - 84.5 per cent - coming from fossil
fuels, this is less than it used to be. The figure, which covers
all energy production, is 1.7 per cent less than in the same period
last year, and actually a record low level.
However, this doesn't include imported energy, much of which is
produced by burning fossil fuels. Energy imports were 1.4 per cent
higher from July to September this year than in the same period in
The fall in the amount of energy produced from fossil fuels in the
UK over the period was balanced by an increase in renewable and
nuclear energy production and imported energy - not renewables
More electricity from coal, nuclear and
Coal was the single largest source of the UK's electricity
generation from July through September this year. This is a
dramatic change from the same period in 2011, when gas was the
biggest source of electricity.
The amount of electricity generated from renewables also increased
in July through September this year compared to the same period in
2011, from 9.1 per cent to 11.7 per cent.
2012 saw the highest share of electricity generation from coal in
the third quarter for 14 years. In contrast, gas had its lowest
share of electricity generation in 14 years.
The amount of electricity generated from gas decreased by 18.1 per
cent compared to the same period in 2011, down to 28.2 per cent.
This is due to high gas prices, DECC say, which meant that many gas
plant were run at low levels over the period.
The share of electricity generated by renewables was 2.6 per cent
higher than in the same period in 2012, increasing to 11.7 per
The share of electricity from nuclear also increased in 2012, to
22.3 per cent of electricity generation, a rise of 3.4 per cent on
the same period in 2011.
While the UK is generating more electricity from low-carbon
sources, much of it is from nuclear. The UK continues to be
dependent on fossil fuels - and coal in particular - to generate
Renewables increase down to bioenergy and
The total electricity generated from renewables was 25 per cent
higher in 2012 than in the same period in 2011. Most of the
increase came from bioenergy and wind.
Bioenergy accounted for 40 per cent of electricity generated by
renewables, while 27 per cent came from onshore wind and 18 per
cent came from offshore wind.
Bioenergy includes electricity generated from landfill gas, sewage
gas, biodegradable municipal solid waste, plant biomass, animal
biomass, and anaerobic digestion and co-firing, and generation from
bioenergy increased by 15 per cent compared with the same period in
Electricity generated from onshore wind rose by 38 per cent, while
offshore wind was up by 54 per cent. Both of these increases were
due to an increase in wind farm capacity.
So while the amount of wind power in the UK's energy mix has
certainly increased, the increase in the amount of electricity
generated from renewables was not solely down to wind but also to a
large amount of bioenergy sources.
The UK is using energy from renewable sources to meet more of its
energy needs than it was at the same point a year ago. But while
the amount of electricity produced from these sources is
increasing, it still only accounts for a small share of the UK's
energy mix. As it stands, the UK is still very much a country
reliant on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs.