UK electricity generation falls to 335TWh, lowest level in 25 years

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Output from renewable sources rose to another record high, generating an estimated 33% of the UK total in 2018, and low-carbon sources contributed 53% of UK generation in 2018. 

The reduction in the UK’s per-capita electricity generation has saved 103 terawatt hours (TWh) since 2005, slightly more than the 95TWh increase in renewable output over the same period. Carbon Brief’s analysis of UK electricity generation in 2018 is based on figures from BM Reports, Sheffield Solar and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Generation in 2018 was 63TWh (16%) lower than in 2005. This is despite the UK population increasing by 10% from 60 million to 66 million people.

The reasons for this decoupling are not fully understood. There are several known contributory factors to the decline in UK electricity generation and demand since 2005. They include product energy efficiency regulations, energy-efficient lighting, environmentally conscious consumers and economic restructuring, including offshoring of energy-intensive industries, says the analysis. For example, low-energy lightbulbs can cut electricity use by up to 90% while newer “white goods” such as fridges, freezers and washing machines can use up to 75% less electricity each year than the oldest models. There is significant untapped potential to continue cutting electricity use by replacing old appliances at the end of their lives with the latest models, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The UK imported around 6% of its electricity supplies in 2018, the analysis by Carbon Brief shows. Most of this comes from France via the 2 gigawatt (GW) electricity interconnector between the two countries that opened in 1986.

The UK imported 4-6% of its power in the 1990s via this link. The share of imports in UK supplies halved during the 2000s before rising back to its current level of 6%. The UK also has a 1GW link to the Netherlands and a 0.5GW cable to Ireland. A 1GW link to Belgium is to open early this year.

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