Gas from Norway, coal from Russia: eight graphs on the UK energy system
- 12 Apr 2013, 14:00
- Robin Webster
The UK's dependence on energy imports has increased
to its highest level since 1976, according to statistics released
by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Here's the
story of the UK's dependence on imported fuels in eight graphs.
DECC released the
data at the end of March, about a month
after the chief executive of energy regulator Ofgem warned that the country's dependence on
imported fuels could drive up consumer energy bills.
1. Energy import
The UK is producing decreasing amounts of energy at
home. Between 2009 and the end of 2012, the total amount of fuel
the country imported in order to generate heat and electricity and
put cars on the road rose by 7.1 per cent a year:
2. Declining gas
The UK's production of natural gas is in
long-term decline as supplies in the
North Sea run out. But production fell even more sharply last year
gas leak, and it hasn't bounced back
The UK is heavily dependent on gas - in 2011 gas
accounted for just under
30 per cent of final energy
consumption, although the figure fell slightly in 2012. Since 2004,
the majority of this supply has come from imports. This means that
the country's gas prices, and consumer energy bills, are vulnerable
fluctuations in the international
3. Where does the UK's gas come
politics has been influenced by European fears about dependence on Russian
gas for some time.
But in 2012, the majority of the country's gas came
from Norway. It also got some gas from the general European network
via pipelines - or interconnectors - that run under the sea from
Belgium and the Netherlands. These interconnectors can be used to
import or export gas as needed, and in 2012 they were switched from
export to import mode.
The rest came in liquid form, in supertankers, from
4. Production of coal also going
The country isn't just dependent on imported gas - it
also gets the majority of its coal from overseas. In the late 1960s
there were 1,334 deep coal mines in the UK. But since the 1970s the
amount of coal the country produces has been in long-term
In 2012 UK coal production fell to an all-time low.
Conversely a rise in the price of gas also pushed up demand for
coal. The amount of coal used to generate electricity last year was
the highest since 2006.
5. Where does the UK's coal come from?
Quite a lot of this coal came from Russia. Steam coal
- suitable for use in producing steam, which is used to generate
electricity - represented about 89 per cent of total coal imports
in 2012. 96.1 per cent of UK steam coal imports came from just
three countries in 2012 - Russia, Colombia and the USA.
6. Dependency on fossil fuels vs
Finally, on a slightly more optimistic note, the
country's dependency on fossil fuels also reached a record low of
86.8 per cent in 2012:
7. Renewables going up
As generation from fossil fuels is declining,
generation from low-carbon sources is increasing. But low-carbon
means both nuclear and renewables, which have different
implications for energy security. Generating electricity from
nuclear requires the country to import uranium. In contrast the
country produces most of its renewable power at home -
although not all, as it imports some
The amount of electricity the UK generated from
renewables increased from 9.4 per cent in 2011 to a record 11.3 per
cent in 2012. The amount of electricity produced from offshore wind
saw the biggest jump, increasing by 46 per cent between 2011 and
8. Feed in Tariffs going up - a
The government hopes to get about 35 per cent of the UK's electricity from
renewables by 2020, so there is still a way to go. But the growth
in the Feed-in Tariff scheme - which largely
subsidises solar panels for homes and businesses - shows how a
popular policy measure can boost uptake:
By the end of 2012, there were 358,000 participants
in the FiT scheme, an 8.3 per cent increase from the year before.
Its popularity - and cost - did however take the government a bit
by surprise, with the result that it
cut the subsidy levels. The story of
FiTs shows what can be done to boost uptake of renewables. How much
it will cost is a bit more of an unpredictable question.