UK electricity generation is at its lowest level in two decades: what role does energy efficiency play?

Recent analysis by Carbon Brief on UK electricity use offers up pivotal findings for business and energy efficiency.

What does the data show?

Carbon Brief has found that in 2018 some 335TWh of electricity was generated in the UK. The last time our generation was this low was in 1994.

Output from renewable sources rose to another record high, generating an estimated 33% of the UK 2018 total. In combination with nuclear, low carbon sources contributed 53% of UK generation in 2018.

Among several known contributors to the decline in UK electricity generation and demand, at the top end come energy efficiency regulations and energy efficient lighting.

The report makes no bones, arguing categorically that energy efficiency is a key element of the best pathways to meeting UK and global climate goals.

The findings stand as compelling evidence behind carbon reporting schemes like ESOS and SECR, which exist to produce data on business energy use and ultimately drive the take up of energy efficient technologies.

With the new numbers offering further proof on why businesses need to act smart on efficiency, can 2019 be the year we witness major growth in this area?

Why firms need to put energy efficiency in place

It’s important to be clear about why these figures, and energy efficiency’s role within them are so vital for UK business.

Carbon Brief has found our energy trends since 2005 break with the economic orthodoxy that a growing economy must be fuelled by rising electricity use.

Instead, the analysis shows the economy has continued to grow, even as electricity generation has levelled off and then started to decline.

The findings show UK real GDP has expanded more than twofold relative to its level in 1980. Generation, also relative to 1980, had grown some 40% by 2005, but is now up less than 20%.

The key message; UK economic growth no longer requires rising electricity use. Electricity generation is falling, but our economy has been growing.

Carbon Brief sees a similar, if less extreme version of the UK decoupling of GDP and electricity use taking place in many other developed countries as economies shift away from energy intensive industries. So the evidence isn’t limited to these shores alone.

What should businesses do now?

The disruptive story points to action. With the ESOS deadline due later this year, the news that energy efficiency is cutting our carbon and growing our economy should surely prompt firms to act on the energy efficient options which will be contained within their ESOS reports.

At micro scale, this will cut individual business usage, save energy spend, modernise plant and offer up reputational advantage. Businesses can benefit in every way from efficiency.

But at macro scale, widespread energy efficient take up will help hasten overall economic growth while minimising UK PLC’s energy spend and maximising our efforts to decarbonise our economy. This is further proven by a recent BBC analysis.

This compelling story is a genuinely positive start to 2019. Let’s hope the wider business audience will also hear the call, and help transition the UK to a low carbon economy.