The Energy Mix
The energy around us
The world around us is powered by energy. We use it in the form of electricity to light our homes, to watch TV and clean our clothes.
Natural gas heats 8 out of 10 of our homes and is key, both as a provider of the energy used to manufacture goods and as a material, to produce an array of items we use on a daily basis.
Coal and oil can be used to make electricity but are also used to make a vast array of fuels and lubricants.
But where do we get all this energy, and how much do we use?
To see our current energy usage follow the link http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
Our energy sources
As energy efficiencies offset population growth the UK uses less energy today than it did in the 1970s, but access to secure and reliable sources of energy remains essential to our day-to-day lives.
Indeed, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) predicts that the UK will continue to use about the same amount of energy in 2030 as we do today.
However, despite the amount of energy the UK uses remaining relatively flat, there have been major changes in how we use and source it.
The biggest of these being the decline in the use of coal and a significant increase in the energy we use for transportation. The fall in coal use has largely been made up with a rise in the use of natural gas.
Perhaps the most discussed area of our energy use is that of electricity and it is here that the change in the energy mix has been most marked.
In the 1970s around two thirds of our electricity was generated by coal. Very recently, and for the first time since the 19th century, the UK generated no electricity from coal (the most recent figures available for average use are from 2014 and indicate coal was used for around 1/5 of electricity).
This period has also seen a similar fall in the use of oil to generate electricity.
The principle reason for the decline in the use of coal and oil to generate electricity was the availability of cheap natural gas from the North Sea.
With the use of coal and oil to generate electricity being made initially unattractive by cheap and available gas, their use in the future looks equally unlikely to ensure that the UK meets its legally binding carbon emission targets.
In the coming years DECC believes a combination of natural gas and renewables – such as wind and solar – will meet the shortfall and envisages that renewables will continue to take an ever greater share over the next 20 years. Indeed, by 2030, DECC expects renewables to produce around 40% of the electricity the UK consumes. DECC expect this to be complimented by nuclear and natural gas.
Whilst the net amount of energy we consume is expected to remain constant, where we source it from will continue to experience significant change.
Fossil fuel low
In 2014 renewables reached a record high share of the UK energy mix while fossil fuels hit record lows. However, despite that, renewables only accounted for around 15% of the mix with fossil fuels meeting around 85% of the demand.
Until the DECC goal is achieved, the UK will remain reliant on fossil fuels, as a transition fuel, for 60% of its electricity and 85% of its total energy needs. As production levels in the North Sea continue to fall we will be left, not with a decision on whether to use hydrocarbons, but where we source the hydrocarbons from in order to achieve energy security. Do we seek to meet a fall in North Sea production by importing oil and gas from overseas, increasing the UK’s carbon footprint whilst doing so and importing from often politically unstable countries with regulatory and environmental standards lower than the UK, or to we explore the potential source we have under our feet whilst contributing to the UK’s efforts to meet its legally binding carbon emission targets.
Producing gas from shale will provide a reliable back-up intermittent renewable energy transition fuel, and it is estimated that shale gas production at peak could be equivalent to heating 20 million homes.
IGas aims to provide a secure supply of energy for Britain- with gas being a vital part of the energy mix.