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Country insight – UK

Primary energy and power demand continued to fall in 2018. The power sector continued to decarbonise with sharp falls in coal consumption and increase in renewables

Fast facts

1    Primary energy consumption in the UK declined 0.5% in 2018, with energy consumption the lowest since at least 1965 and 17% below the peak in 2005


2    Power generation from coal-fired plants continued to decline, coal’s overall share of the generation mix fell to just 5% compared to nearly 40% in 2012


3    Renewables grew strongly, led by wind, and made up 7% of UK primary energy in 2018 compared to 1% just 10 years ago

+13% – Increase in renewables going in the power sector
Increase in renewables going in the power sector
32% – Renewables share in power generation
Renewables share in power generation
-25% – Decline of coal going into the power sector in 2018
Decline of coal going into the power sector in 2018
-2.3% – Decline in CO2 emissions from energy use
Decline in CO2 emissions from energy use

At a glance

  • Primary energy consumption in the UK fell by 0.5% in 2018, a slower rate of decline than the 1.4% seen over the previous 10 years.
  • Oil and gas remained the dominant energy sources, accounting for 40% and 35% of primary energy consumption, respectively.
  • Oil consumption decreased 1.2% in the year to 1.6 mb/d – around half of peak oil consumption in the UK seen in the early 1970s.
  • Natural gas consumption remained flat compared to a declining trend of 2% p.a. seen over the past 10 years. Gas in power fell 4% as falling electricity demand and increase in renewables more than offset the reduction in coal.
  • Coal consumption declined 17% and made-up just 4% of UK’s primary energy mix in 2018 compared to nearly 20% in 2012. This was the lowest share since the industrial revolution. 
  • After being broadly flat for the previous three years, total power generation continued its long-term decline and fell 1.4% in 2018 to 334 TWh – its lowest level since 1994.
  • Despite a 7.5% fall in nuclear, the majority of UK power generation came from zero carbon sources (nuclear, hydro and renewables). These accounted for 53% of generation in 2018, up from 21% in 2007.
  • Renewables output increased 13% to 106 TWh with wind, solar and biomass increasing 14% (+7 TWh), 12% (+1.4 TWh) and 12% (+4 TWh) respectively. 
  • Oil production increased 8.6% to 1.1 Mb/d. This compares to a low in 2014 of 0.85 mb/d/ and similar to 2011.
  • Natural gas production fell 3.9% to 131 BCM. This compares to annual average fall of 1.9% over past 10 years. 
  • Energy intensity (energy demand per unit of GDP) fell 1.9% compared to 10-year average decline of 2.5%.
  • CO2 from energy use fell by 2.3% to 0.4 giga tonnes – a 30% fall compared to just 10 years ago. Carbon intensity (carbon to produce one unit of GDP) fell 4.5% to nearly 50% below OECD average.
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