From the TUC

UK more dependent on energy imports

17 Aug 2012, by in Economics, Environment

How secure are our energy supplies? In 2011, imports of energy exceeded UK production for the first time since 1974. “Energy security” implies having sufficient supplies of clean energy at affordable prices. Our growing dependency on energy imports will surely have to be addressed in the government’s Energy Bill this aututmn. But the positive news from the latest official energy data is that electricity powered from all renewable resources in the UK  increased by a third (33%) in 2011 on the previous year.

UK energy import dependency chart 1970-2011 - ONS

Source: Office of National Statistics

Clearly, renewables are powering ahead despite two years of government indecision over support for feed in tarrifs, wind power and other clean energy sources.  Renewables delivered 9.4% of total UK electricity generation in 2011, but bearing in mind the binding target is 30% by 2020, there is a huge gap to fill through new investment.

Progress towards our renewable energy targets

  2009 2010 2011 Target 2020
% electricity from renewables 6.6 7.4 8.7 30%
% heat and cooling 1.7 1.7 2.2 12%
% transport fuels 2.6 3.0 2.9 10%
Total energy 3.0 3.2 3.8 15%

Thanks to the ENDS Report 450 for this table.

Meanwhile, coal, the “forgotten fuel” in the energy debate, generated 30% of UK electricity last year, an increase on the 28% generated in 2010. Some 6,000 employed in UK coal mining, of whom 3,700 work in deep mines. The UK has plentiful coal reserves currently (estimated at 3.1 billion tonnes), far more than our gas reserves. 

Overall, energy industries in the UK play a central role in the economy:

  • 4.4% of GDP.
  • 10.1% of total investment in 2010.
  • 51.8% of industrial investment in 2010.
  • 171,000 people directly employed (7% of industrial employment).

The TUC’s balanced energy policy combines carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, renewables and new nuclear, providing the basis for a secure and affordable clean energy strategy for the long term. Import dependency and the “renewables gap” present significant challenges to the government’s Energy Bill this autumn. The Bill is tasked to deliver “secure energy on the way to a low carbon energy future and drive ambitious action on climate change at home and abroad.”