Electricity sector in the United Kingdom
The electricity sector in the United Kingdom relies mainly on fossil fuelled power and 15-20% in nuclear power and similar amounts of renewable power. Fossil fuel generator use in general and coal use in particularly is shrinking, with coal generators now only mainly being run in Winter due to pollution and costs.
In 2008 nuclear electricity production was 860 kWh pro person. In 2014, 28.1 TW·h of energy was generated by wind power, which contributed 9.3% of the UK's electricity requirement. In 2015, 40.4 TW·h of energy was generated by wind power, and the quarterly generation record was set in the three-month period from October to December 2015, with 13% of the nation’s electricity demand met by wind. 2015 saw 1.2 GW of new wind power capacity brought online, a 9.6% increase of the total UK installed capacity.
The United Kingdom voluntarily ended the use of incandescent lightbulbs in 2011. Between 2007 and 2012, the UK's peak electrical demand has fallen from 61.5 GW to 57.5 GW The use of electricity declined 11% in 2009 compared to 2004 and respectively.
The UK is planning to reform its Electricity Market. It plans to introduce a capacity mechanism and contracts for difference to encourage the building of new generation.
The European Commission banned low efficiency general-purpose, non-directional incandescent lightbulbs from 2012, though similarly shaped higher-efficiency halogen bulbs continue to be available (although halogen cannot be considered high-efficiency when compared to Compact fluorescent lamp and LED bulbs). The United Kingdom banned them voluntarily from 2011 after Ireland in 2009.
Electricity per person and by power source
|Electricity per person in the United Kingdom (kWh/ hab.) |
|Use||Production||Import||Import %||Fossil||Nuclear||Nuc. %||Other RE*||Bio+waste||Wind||Non RE use*||RE %*|
|* Other RE is waterpower, solar and geothermal electricity and windpower until 2008
* Non RE use = use – production of renewable electricity
* RE % = (production of RE / use) * 100% Note: EU calculates the share of renewable energies in gross electrical consumption.
Mode of production
|Current grid status Similar data|
The gross production of electricity was 393 TWh in 2004 which gave the 9th position in the world top producers in 2004.
The mode of production has changed over the years. During the 1960s and 70s, coal plants were built to supply consumption despite economic challenges. During the 1970s and 80s some nuclear sites were built. From the 1990s gas power plants benefited from the Dash for Gas supplied by North Sea gas. After the 2000s, renewables like solar and wind added significant capacity. In Q3 2016, nuclear and renewables each supplied a quarter of British electricity, with coal supplying 3.6%.
Gas and coal
Electricity was produced with gas 160 TWh in 2004 and 177 TWh in 2008. The United Kingdom was 4th top electricity producer from gas both in 2004 and in 2008. In 2005 the UK produced 3.2% of the world total natural gas having the 5th top position after Russia (21.8%), United States (18%), Canada (6.5%) and Algeria (3.2%). In 2009 the UK’s own gas production was less and natural gas was also imported.
On several occasions in May 2016, Britain burned no coal for electricity for the first time since 1882. Due to lower gas prices, economy of coal plants is strained, and 3 coal plants closed in 2016. On 21st April 2017, the mainland grid burnt no coal to make electricity for the first complete 24 hour period.
The installed nuclear power capacity in the United Kingdom was 11 GW in 2008. The production of nuclear power was 80 TWh in 2004 (2.9% of world total)  and 63 TWh in 2007 (2.3% of world total)  The production of nuclear electricity was lower in 2006 and 2008 than the actual capacity. The electricity consumption declined in 2009 compared to 2004 by 736 kWh/person when the nuclear energy was produced at nearly same volume 860 kWh/person in 2008. Further, Denmark produced more wind power per person (1,218 kWh/person) than the nuclear power produced annually per person in the United Kingdom between 2006 and 2009 (860-1,120 kWh/person).
From the mid-1990s renewable energy began to contribute to the electricity generated in the United Kingdom, adding to a small hydroelectricity generating capacity. Renewable energy sources provided for 11.3% of the electricity generated in the United Kingdom in 2012, reaching 41.3 TWh of electricity generated.
Currently, the biggest renewable source of energy in the UK is wind power, and the UK has some of the best wind resources in Europe. The UK has relatively small hydroelectricity deployment and resources, although some pumped storage exists. Solar power is rapidly growing and provides significant power during daylight hours, but total energy provided is still small. Biofuels are also used as a significant sources of power. Geothermal is not highly accessible and is not a significant source. Tidal resources are present and experimental projects are being tested, but are likely to be expensive.
Wind power delivers a growing fraction of the energy in the United Kingdom and at the beginning of January 2015, wind power in the United Kingdom consisted of 6,546 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of just under 12 gigawatts: 7,950 megawatts of onshore capacity and 4,049 megawatts of offshore capacity. The United Kingdom is ranked as the world's sixth largest producer of wind power, having overtaken France and Italy in 2012. Polling of public opinion consistently shows strong support for wind power in the UK, with nearly three quarters of the population agreeing with its use, even for people living near onshore wind turbines. Wind power is expected to continue growing in the UK for the foreseeable future, RenewableUK estimates that more than 2 GW of capacity will be deployed per year for the next five years. Within the UK, wind power was the second largest source of renewable energy after biomass in 2013.
According to Imperial College Britain could have 40% of electricity from solar power in sunny days by 2020 in 10 million homes compared to a half a million homes in start of 2014. If a third of households would generate solar energy it could equal 6% of British total electricity consumption.
|Map of UK power stations, 2006 Archive|
|Archive of UK Grid map 2012 Source|
|UK Grid map 2016 Archive|
The National Grid is the high-voltage electric power transmission network in Great Britain, connecting power stations and major substations and ensuring that electricity generated anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales can be used to satisfy demand elsewhere. There are also undersea interconnections to northern France (HVDC Cross-Channel), Northern Ireland (HVDC Moyle), the Isle of Man (Isle of Man to England Interconnector), the Netherlands (BritNed) and the Republic of Ireland (EWIC).
On the breakup of the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1990, the ownership and operation of the National Grid in England and Wales passed to National Grid Company plc, later to become National Grid Transco, and now National Grid plc. In Scotland the grid split into two separate entities, one for southern and central Scotland and the other for northern Scotland, connected by interconnectors to each other. The first is owned and maintained by SP Energy Networks, a subsidiary of Scottish Power, and the other by SSE. However, National Grid plc remains the System Operator for the whole UK Grid.
The export of electricity was 1-3% of consumption between 2004-2009. According to IEA the UK was the 6th highest electricity importer, importing 11 TWh, after Brazil (42TWh), Italy (40TWh), United States (33TWh), Netherlands (16TWh) and Finland (14TWh).
The UK grid is connected to adjacent European and Irish electrical grids by submarine power cables, including for links to northern France (HVDC Cross-Channel), Northern Ireland (HVDC Moyle), Republic of Ireland (East–West Interconnector), the Isle of Man (Isle of Man to England Interconnector), and the Netherlands (BritNed). There are also plans to lay cables to link the UK with Iceland and Norway (Scotland–Norway interconnector) in the future.
In the UK, an electricity supplier is a retailer of electricity. For each supply point the supplier has to pay the various costs of transmission, distribution, meter operation, data collection, tax etc. The supplier then adds in energy costs and the supplier's own charge.
- Energy in the United Kingdom
- Energy policy of the United Kingdom
- National Grid (Great Britain)
- Decarbonisation measures in proposed UK electricity market reform
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