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Electricity sector in the United Kingdom

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Title: Electricity sector in the United Kingdom  
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Subject: Energy in the United Kingdom, Electricity sector in Denmark, Electricity sector in Belgium, National Grid (Great Britain), Energy in Slovenia
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Electricity sector in the United Kingdom

Electricity supplied (net) 1948 to 2008[1]

The electricity sector in the United Kingdom relies mainly on fossil fuelled power and 15-20% in nuclear power. The use of electricity declined 11% in 2009 compared to 2004 and respectively the renewable energy per cent share of total electricity use increased 2.8%. The annual use of electricity declined 736 kWh per person in 2009 compared to 2004. In 2008 nuclear electricity production was 860 kWh pro person. The share of wind power was 3.2% of electricity when top countries were Denmark (24% of electricity), Spain (14.4%), Portugal (14%), Ireland (10.1%) and Germany (9.3%). The United Kingdom ended voluntarily the use of incandescent lightbulbs in 2011. 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.


  • Consumption 1
    • Lighting 1.1
  • Electricity per person and by power source 2
  • Mode of production 3
    • Gas 3.1
    • Nuclear power 3.2
    • Renewable energy 3.3
  • Power stations 4
  • Export/import 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7



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.) [2]
Use Production Import Import % Fossil Nuclear Nuc. % Other RE* Bio+waste Wind Non RE use* RE %*
2004 6,741 6,615 125 1.9% 4,988 1,337 19.8% 159 132 6,450 4.3%
2005 6,791 6,651 139 2.0% 4,902 1,355 20.0% 180 214 6,397 5.8%
2006 6,624 6,539 86 1.3% 5,059 1,026 15.5% 251 203 6,171 6.8%
2008 6,573 6,392 180 2.8% 5,069 860 13.1% 266 198 6,108 7.1%
2009 6,005 5,958 47 0.8% 4,411 1,120 18.7% 84* 204 138* 5,579 7.1%
* 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

Electricity production by year, by source

The gross production of electricity was 393 TWh in 2004 which gave the 9th position in the world top producers in 2004.[3]

The 6 major companies which dominate the British electricity market ("The Big Six") are: EDF, Centrica (British Gas), E.ON, RWE npower, Scottish Power and Southern & Scottish Energy.


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.[3][4]

Due to reducing demand in the late-2000s recession and high gas prices, in 2011 and 2012 over 2 GW of older, less efficient, gas generation plant was mothballed.[5][6]

Nuclear power

The installed nuclear power capacity in the United Kingdom was 11 GW in 2008.[4] The production of nuclear power was 80 TWh in 2004 (2.9% of world total) [3] and 63 TWh in 2007 (2.3% of world total) [7] 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 pro person (1,218 kWh/person) than the United Kingdom produced annually nuclear power pro person in 2006-2009 (860-1,120 kWh/person).[2]

Renewable energy

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,[8] reaching 41.3 TWh of electricity generated.

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.[9]

Power stations


The export of electricity was 1-3% of consumption between 2004-2009. According to IEA the UK was top electricity importer 6th importing 11 TWh after (TWh): Brazil 42, Italy 40, United States 33, Netherlands 16 and Finland 14.[4]

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.

See also HVDC Cross-Channel and List of European HVDC Projects

See also


  1. ^ "Digest of UK energy statistics: 60th Anniversary Report". Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Energy in Sweden, Facts and figures, The Swedish Energy Agency, (in Swedish: Energiläget i siffror), Table: Specific electricity production per inhabitant with breakdown by power source (kWh/person), Source: IEA/OECD 2006 T23, 2007 T25, 2008 T26, 2009 T25 and 2010 T49.
  3. ^ a b c IEA Key energy statistics 2006
  4. ^ a b c IEA Key energy statistics 2010 pages electricity 27 gas 13,25 fossil 25 nuclear 17
  5. ^ Andreas Walstad (2 August 2011). "UK power plants mothballed on higher gas prices". National Gas Daily (Interfax). Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Centrica idles gas-fired plant amid low spark spreads". Argus Media. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  7. ^ pdf IEA Key energy statistics 2009
  8. ^ "Department of Energy and Climate Change: Annual tables: ‘Digest of UK energy statistics’ (DUKES) - Chapter 6: Renewable Sources of energy". Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  9. ^ UK should have 10 million homes with solar panels by 2020, experts say, Imperial College says Britain could get as much as 40% of its electricity from solar power on sunny days by decade's end 29 January 2014
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