UK moves closer towards hitting 2050 climate targets

New Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that, in March, the total demand for energy within the UK fell by 12%, meanwhile total energy production decreased by 3%.

The overall decrease in energy consumption, as well as production, is due to the COVID-19 restrictions. During 2020, economic activity was affected as leisure as well as travel services have seen a reduction in demand as people are not travelling.

As a result of these restrictions these industries are not as busy, hence, they are not using their factor inputs at full capacity leading to a larger negative output gap.

Therefore, the energy requirements for industrial use and services were down 8% in 2019, showing why there has been an overall decrease in demand for energy production.

Consequently, a decrease in demand means energy production firms have a decreased incentive to provide energy, so, they also cut back on energy production showing why production has also decreased by 3%.

Coal saw the largest decrease in its production of 35%, imports also had a decrease of 27% as well as a reduction in demand of 11%.

Other sources of fossil fuel energy generation also experienced similar trends as coal as shown in the figure below provided by the ONS.

The disproportionate decrease in demand for fossil fuel energy sources compared to electricity as a whole shows the UK’s movement away from unsustainable energy sources.

The majority of the UK’s coal since the year 2000 has been imported from other nations rather than being mined domestically. Nevertheless, domestic coal production has been on a steady decline, meanwhile, imports have also fallen as overall demand dropped.

Imports fell 81% from 23 million tonnes in 2000 to 5 million tonnes in 2020 due to a drop in demand for coal. Additionally, total coal demand in 2020 fell to 7.1 million tonnes, 11% lower than in 2019.

This decrease in coal imports, as well as production, is being substituted by more climate-friendly sources as energy consumers look towards greener alternatives.

As a result of this, renewable energy generation has been slowly increasing, and, in 2020, renewable generation increased by 11%t.

Overall, renewables accounted for 42.9% of the total generation, which is another new record.

The largest increase in the source of renewable energy generation is from Offshore Windpower, whose capacity increased by 16% between Q4 of 2019 and Q4 of 2020.

However, in total, renewable capacity grew by just 2.0% during 2020. Marking the lowest growth rate since at least 2010, compared with an average growth of almost 20% during the preceding ten years.

In total, the total energy capacity of the UK has steadily risen with a slight decrease in 2019 due to the loss of output associated with the beginning of COVID-19. Despite this slowdown, the UK has had a drastic shift in the energy mix towards renewable energy.

With coal making a small portion of the fossil fuels mix, other sources of unsustainable energy such as Oil and gas are still going to take time before they are completely replaced by renewable sources.

Nuclear energy production has seen little difference with slight reductions in its capacity year on year.

The slow reduction of fossil fuels and the replacement of them with renewable alternatives such as wind power will enable the UK to hit the climate target of the Paris agreement, which is becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Additionally, renewable energy does not share the same scarcity attributed to non-renewable resources, because of this, the transition towards renewables will make the UK economy much more stable as it will no longer rely on unsustainable resources.

So, the increasingly sustainable and carbon-friendly energy supply will allow the UK government to hit its targets, making a greener and more reliable future for coming generations.


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