The UK energy mix

The UK's energy mix is set to change dramatically over the next 20 years.

The UK consumes less energy today than it did in 1970, despite an extra 6.5 million people living there.

It seems the UK is more efficient both in producing energy and using it. The rise of the less energy intensive service sector at the expense of industry has also played a part.

Households use 12 per cent less, while industry uses a massive 60 per cent less.

This is largely offset by a 50 per cent rise in energy use in the transport sector, due to the huge rise in the number of cars on the road. In 2020, there were 38.6 million vehicles on the road in the UK compared with 10 million in 1970.

The big increase in the number of flights is another important factor.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) forecasts that energy efficiencies will continue to offset population growth, so that the UK will use about the same amount of energy in 2030 as it does today. In other words, the UK will use less energy in 2030 than it did in 1970.

The major change in the make-up of UK energy consumption is the rapid decline in the use of coal and fuels made from it, such as coke and blast furnace gas. The void left by the fall in coal use has been filled largely by a rapid rise in the use of natural gas and, to a lesser extent, an increase in electricity usage.

By contrast, the use of petrol has remained pretty consistent throughout.

Despite the recent resurgence of coal, DECC expects its use in electricity generation in the UK to fall sharply over the next 10 years.

In the short term, DECC believes natural gas and renewable energy, such as wind and solar, will take up the slack, with renewables taking an ever greater share over the next 20 years.

By 2030, it expects renewables to be by far the biggest source of energy used in electricity generation, making up about 40 per cent of the overall mix.

In the late 2020s, nuclear is also set to contribute more as the UK's new generation of nuclear power stations comes online.

The UK may still be using the same amount of energy in 2030 as it was in 1970, but it will be generating it in very different ways.

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