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The UK is consuming less energy than it did in 1998 and more of the energy we are consuming is coming from renewable sources.
However, at the same time, the decline in North Sea oil and gas production has meant the UK has become increasingly dependent on imports of energy.
But just how dependent are we? How do we compare to our European neighbours? And what are we importing and where is it coming from?
UK energy: consumption down and renewable energy up
There was a 17% fall in the amount of energy used by the UK between 1998 and 2015.
This may be explained by:
- the increased use of energy-efficient technologies by households and firms
- government policies designed to reduce energy consumption
- a decline of UK manufacturing, especially in energy-intensive industries
Reliance on imported energy rises back up to 1970 levels
Despite the overall fall in UK energy consumption and the increasing use of renewable and waste sources, the UK’s reliance on imported energy has returned to the levels last seen around the mid-to late-1970s.
In recent years our reliance on imported energy has been on an upward trend but it has now fallen from its recent peak in 2013.
All EU countries now import more energy than they export
All EU countries imported more energy than they exported in 2014. In terms of rankings, of the 28 EU countries the UK was the 12th most dependent on foreign sources of energy; less reliant than Germany and Italy but more reliant than Sweden and the Netherlands.
Furthermore, in 2014 the UK’s import dependency was below the EU average and the UK was the least dependent on foreign sources of energy out of the five EU countries who consumed the largest amounts of energy overall (namely Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK).
However, even though the UK’s reliance on imported energy is still below its EU neighbours, the UK is now more in line with them than it has been in recent history.
Since 1998 the UK has gone from being a net exporter to a net importer of energy while Germany, Spain, France and Italy have all consistently imported more energy than they exported.
From oil and natural gas from Norway to coal and diesel from Russia – just where do our energy imports come from?
In 2015 the UK’s main types of imported fuel were crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products (for example, petrol and diesel). We also imported electricity and coal and other types of solid fuel (like wood) in smaller amounts.
It might seem strange but the UK does actually import electricity that is created elsewhere. Imports of electricity made up 1% of our fuel imports in 2015.
This electricity is imported via interconnectors and it comes mainly from France and the Netherlands.