The UK is using a lot less energy than it did previously. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was a 17% fall in the amount of energy used in the country between 1998 and 2015. This is partly due to the fact that technology has enabled more energy efficient practices to be used; such as the development of smart devices. It’s also partly due to the decline in manufacturing in the country and to government backed energy efficiency initiatives.
However, much of the traditional energy source material that we do still use is now imported, following the decline of the North Sea oil and gas industry. Let’s take a look at the story in more detail.
Current sources of UK energy
On average, energy that is provided by UK suppliers mostly comes from gas (around 41%). Renewable sources, such as wind power are used to produce around 30% of the energy provided while the percentage figures for coal and nuclear power respectively are around 13% and 11%.
Coal and nuclear power
There are reasons why the figures for the use of coal and nuclear power are low.
- Coal used to be the major means of producing power for the country, back in the 1940s. It was a cheap fuel so it was popular. Now, we know the damage that coal causes to the environment, through CO2 emissions. It’s still used during the production of electricity, but at minimum levels.
- Nuclear power has little effect on the environment but there is still some concern over the safety of its use. The source of the power is uranium and it’s a scarce resource, making the future of nuclear power uncertain.
Natural gas is still a major source of energy supply in the UK and it’s readily available, although not always in this country. One of the major issues with this energy source is that some people are worried about the safety of the ‘fracking’ process which is being used to obtain natural gas.
From a safety and availability point of view, renewable energy seems to be the way forward. Wind power is the most used form of renewable energy in this country. Wind turbines are a familiar part of the landscape across the country. The rise of wind power has been impressive. It’s grown from being almost completely unused in 1990 to being a major feature of UK energy usage. Much of this rise in popularity has been due to the decrease in the expense of using this energy source.
Where does UK energy come from?
Like most European countries, the UK imports the majority of its traditional fuel supplies, especially gas. We do have our own resources, but they are not as plentiful as they need to be.
This is why we import gas from several countries. Most of the UK’s gas imports come from Norway, but Russia is also a supplier. Some gas also comes through pipelines under the channel, from countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.
The electricity supply of the UK is produced using a variety of different fuels including coal, gas, wind power and nuclear power. Some of these resources have their origins in the UK and some are imported.
What does the future hold?
The UK has already made great strides in reducing the amount of energy that is used in the country. This situation needs to continue, in order to make best use of resources and protect the environment.
The most effective way of producing power, when it comes to safety and the environment, is to use renewable resources. In the UK, this is likely to mean a continued growth in the use of wind power to produce the electricity needed. The use of fossil fuels should decline further in the future; especially in the case of coal. Fossil fuels are bad for the environment, and they are finite resource, so we need to rely on them less.
The source of energy in the UK has changed a lot over the decades. From being a coal reliant country in the 1940s, we have progressed to being more energy efficient and to making better use of greener energy sources. Looking back in ten or twenty years, it will be interesting to see how the percentages of fuel uses have changed. Hopefully, wind power will be even more prevalent. It’s readily available, good for the environment and we do not need to import it. It makes sense as a major energy source, now and in the future.