Sunday, 6 February 2011

UK energy consumption has been flat for 40 years

What does economic growth imply for energy consumption?

The data for the UK tells an interesting story. Since 1970, our primary energy consumption, measured on oil equivalent, has remained virtually flat. Over the last two or three years, it has actually declined slightly.

Of course, the chart for other countries, paricularly those in the developing world could be quite different. However, techological innovation and structural ecconomic change can often have powerful implications for energy consumption. Growth does not necessarily mean higher energy usage.

This, I believe, is an important point when considering the climate change issue.


marksany said...

Manufacturing industry is a big user of energy. With this moving offshore, fall in energy expected. This should include energy used making goods that are imported.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the graph. What is "primary" energy consumption? Why not just energy consumption?

What does 'temperature corrected' mean?

So many questions!


Alice Cook said...

oil equivalent is just a method for converting other energy forms - such as gas and coal - into a single metric.

Temperature adjusted corrects for different weather conditions -some years are colder than others, and more energy is used.

bill said...

Looking solely at the UK is meaningless as marksany points out. The UK industrial sector now makes up a mere ~22% of GDP.

At the global level there is a historical correlation between between global oil demand and global GDP.

In 2009 UK total energy consumption decreased by 5.6%, CO2 decreased 8.2%, with a 4.9% reduction in GDP over the same period.

Ed Butt said...

A vastly expanded public sector (which does not actually grow the economy but helps grow GDP by circuaing money) does not use anything like as much energy as the now disappeared industries such as steelmaking and heavy engineering.

Energy consumption has migrated, that's all.

Anonymous said...

My Father worked in CEGB (electicity power stations) from 1945 for 40 years and every year electricity demand grew until 1975, Since then the total electricty use has remained about the same. Your graph shows the later bit, If you went back another 30 years you would see the growth as fridges telly's washing machines electric kettles etc arrived in the UK house, since 1975 it has mainly been replacement and not new appliances.

Alice Cook said...

Anon 22:43

That is a very good point; I liked it a lot. It explains a lot.


Anonymous said...

The chart roughly covers my lifetime at work. I started in a factory in 1968; a factory employing 8,000 people and consuming epic amounts of energy. That factory has gone and the jobs have been exported to the far east.

On the other hand the UK population has increased (by 30%, you tell me) at the same time and our homes are a lot warmer than when I grew up in the 40's and 50's.

Perhaps the two things have cancelled each other out.

As for climate change. Please don't get me started on this most obvious scam!

Cheers Chris