UK energy statistics show big jump in coal-fired electricity last year
- 28 Feb 2013, 11:35
- Christian Hunt
Drax power plant - freefotouk/flickr
Last year saw a dramatic increase in the amount of UK
electricity generated using coal power, preliminary figures from
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show. Coal power
overtook gas to become the biggest single source of UK electricity
Coal produced 42.8 per cent of the UK's electricity in 2012,
a rather startling rise from 2011, when it provided
just 30 per cent. In 2011, gas produced 40
per cent of UK electricity - so gas and coal have basically swapped
places in just a year.
Detailed government energy statistics covering 2012 won't be
published until July, but DECC has just produced a preliminary look
at 2012 in UK energy statistics. The short report lays out the
broad picture of how the UK generated and used energy last
Domestic oil and gas production is down, while a colder than
average winter has pushed up energy consumption in absolute terms.
Adjusted for temperatures, energy consumption fell slightly in
2012, DECC says.
Coal power produced 42.8 per cent of the UK's electricity in
2012. Gas (about 28 per cent) and nuclear (about 20 per cent) also
provided big chunks.
As the electricity generation figures suggest, demand for
gas was low, as power companies burned cheaper coal to generate
electricity. Ironically, coal is cheap in Europe at the moment
because shale gas production in the US has
made it less economic to burn coal in the
The figures for 'low carbon electricity' - covering
nuclear and renewables including hydro power - aren't broken down
in detail in this report. Wind power produced 5.5 per cent of
electricity in 2012, the preliminary figures show - still small,
but an increase of a third on 2011.
In terms of gas supply, the UK imported a lot more gas
through pipelines - up 25.9 per cent. But there was a large fall in
imports of LNG (liquefied natural gas), which is imported in
tankers. LNG imports were down 45.3 per cent.
In July, DECC will publish this year's Digest of UK Energy
Statistics, known affectionately as 'DUKES'. That report will
contain much more detail on 2012's energy trends. The most recent
report (which covers 2011) is available
And my colleague Mat explains
here one important reason why coal use is going up at the
One of the current EU policies is
EU Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD). The LCPD limits
operation of coal plants that don't meet strict emissions
standards, and rather than doing this, many will choose to opt out,
and close. They will then only have 20,000 hours left to run.
In practice this may mean that with coal so cheap, plants which
are set to close after 20,000 hours may burn through this allowance
faster. This would mean they consume more coal now but close
Here's DECC's preliminary update in full:
Primary energy production fell by 10.7 per cent on a year
earlier to 122.4 million tonnes of oil equivalent, following sharp
falls in output from the UK Continental Shelf as a result of longer
term decline, maintenance activity and slowdowns. This follows the
record 13.2 per decline recorded last year. On an annual basis,
petroleum was down by 14.3 per cent, with gas production down by
14.1 per cent. Low carbon energy production grew: nuclear output
was up 2 per cent; wind output from major power producers was up by
33 per cent reflecting additional capacity; though hydro was down
by 9 per cent, due to lower rainfall in the areas where the UK
hydro resources are located.
UK energy production - annual growth
Primary energy consumption increased by 2.0 per cent, but on
a temperature adjusted basis, was down 0.4 per cent continuing the
downward trend of the last seven years. The main difference was due
to 2012 being colder than 2011, with average temperatures falling
from 10.7 to 9.8 degrees Celsius. As a result there was increased
demand for energy for heating. Also, the switch in electricity
generation from gas to coal, as detailed below, results in an
increased demand for primary energy, as gas generation is thermally
more efficient than coal generation. This has likely increased both
the unadjusted and temperature adjusted data in 2012 by around 1
per cent, compared to what it would have been without this change.
As a result, final energy consumption is estimated to have fallen
by around 1.5 per cent, broadly in line with the trend since
Primary Energy Consumption
At this stage only complete annual estimates are available
for major power producers, which exclude auto-producers and some
renewable sources. Coal accounted for 42.8 per cent of electricity
supplied in 2012, with gas accounting for 27.6 per cent and nuclear
20.8 per cent. Coal's share of generation is at its highest level
since 1996, with gas's share at its lowest since 1996.
Electricity - share of generation from major power
Low carbon generation accounted for 29.6 per cent of supply,
up from 26.7% in 2011. Wind generation by major power producers was
up 33 per cent, and its share of generation has grown from 4.0 per
cent in 2011 to 5.5 per cent in 2012. Bioenergy was up by 46 per
cent and its share has grown to 1.9 per cent. Hydro was down by 9.0
per cent and its share decreased marginally to 1.4 per cent.
Nuclear output was up by 2.1 per cent, but still accounted for over
70 per cent of the UK's low carbon generation.
In 2012, UK production of gas fell by 14.1 per cent,
following the record fall of 20.8 per cent in 2011. This large fall
reflects continued planned and unplanned maintenance activity.
Imports of gas again exceeded UK production, though production
continued to exceed net imports. The net import dependency rate is
estimated to have increased to 47 per cent.
In 2012 physical flows of imports were down by 7.4 per cent.
There was a large increase in pipeline imports, which were up 25.9
per cent, primarily from Norway, following maintenance works in
2011; with a large fall in imports of LNG (liquefied natural gas),
which were down 45.3 per cent.
UK gas demand was at its lowest level since 1995, due the
decreased demand from generators.
Crude oil and petroleum products
In 2012, UK production of crude oil fell by 14.3 per cent.
Crude oil imports again exceeded UK production, though the UK still
exported significant quantities, with production still exceeding
In July 2012, the Coryton refinery closed. Despite this, the
UK remained a net exporter of petroleum products, with net exports
of 1.6 million tonnes.