UK emissions fall seven per cent as renewable energy soars

UK greenhouse gas emissions dropped seven per cent last year as warmer temperatures slashed demand for gas and nuclear and renewable energy increased, government data revealed today

The country emitted a total of 549 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) of the six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, down from 590MTCO2e in 2010. Carbon dioxide, which makes up around 84 per cent of UK emissions, fell eight per cent year on year to 456MT.

This decline was accompanied by a rise in renewable energy production to make up a record 9.5 per cent of the UK’s total energy mix, compared to 7.5 per cent the previous year, while nuclear increased by three percentage points to make up 19 per cent.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said the results showed “more evidence of how the UK is leading the way in the fight against climate change”.

“Carbon emissions are down, homes are more energy efficient and low carbon power is up,” he added. “Thanks to the Green Deal and the government’s reforms to the electricity market I hope to see this trend continue and gather pace.”

The data shows carbon emissions plunged 22 per cent in the residential sector, just over six per cent in the energy supply sector, and eight per cent from businesses, as gas demand dropped 17 per cent from 2010 to its lowest level since 1995.

Meanwhile, renewable sources accounted for 34.8 terrawatt Hours (TWh) of electricity in 2011 – an increase of 35 per cent on the previous year – and around half the total of nuclear, while renewable electricity capacity increased by 2.9GW to 12.2 GW at the end of 2011, a 32 per cent increase on a year earlier.

Wind energy production rose by 54.5 per cent – and offshore wind by 68 per cent – due to higher wind speeds and increased capacity, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

Hydro generation increased by 58 per cent on 2010 as a result of higher rainfall and overall, hydro and wind generation was 55.5 per cent higher in 2011.

In Scotland, renewable electricity generated in 2011 rose 45 per cent on 2010 to 13,750 Gigawatt hours. Assuming gross consumption in 2011 is similar to 2010, this means the country met around 35 per cent of its electricity needs from green electricity, beating the Scottish government’s target of 31 per cent.

“Scotland [also] met almost 40 per cent of the UK’s renewables output in 2011, demonstrating just how much the rest of the UK needs our energy,” said energy minister Fergus Ewing.

“We are seeing great progress towards our goal of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.”

However, falling gas and oil production across the UK resulted in a net energy import dependency of 36.5 per cent, the highest level in the UK since 1976. Another landmark was achieved as gross imports of natural gas were greater than gross production for the first time since 1967, although because the UK also exports gas, gross production remained higher than net imports.

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.