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What is the UK energy mix?

By Energy Company Numbers on January 24, 2017 in Help and advice
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To meet the country’s energy needs, energy suppliers in the UK have to use all of the energy sources available to them to generate enough electricity to meet demand and also provide a contingency. This is called the energy mix. Where your electricity comes from depends on who your supplier is and where you are located in the UK. Let’s take a closer look at the UK energy mix and see what’s what.

So what is the UK energy mix?

Energy companies in the United Kingdom use a mix of energy sources to generate electricity. The energy mix is the phrase used to describe these sources. All energy suppliers in the UK, big and small, have an energy mix and the same can be said for most suppliers around the world. It is also important to mention that energy suppliers in the United Kingdom have a legal obligation to disclose their fuel mix every year.

The energy mix can consist of the following energy sources:

  • Coal;
  • Gas;
  • Nuclear;
  • Renewable (wind, marine, solar);
  • Other.

Most energy suppliers, like EDF Energy and the other big five, have two or more coal-fired power stations and a number of nuclear power stations.

UK Energy Mix

The bulk of the United Kingdom’s electricity is generated by nuclear and coal, in that order. Nuclear power stations account for 61.8 percent of EDF’s electricity generation, with coal accounting for 27.9 percent. Most of the big six energy suppliers have a similar set up and energy mix percentages. Gas is almost always the least used source to generate electricity.

If we take a look at the British Gas fuel mix for 2016, we can see that coal and nuclear makes up a significant amount of the energy British Gas uses:

EDF Fuel Mix Pie Chart

Continuing investment in the UK energy mix

Fifteen years ago, many energy companies relied on coal and nuclear for the bulk of their electricity production. But today, more and more suppliers are moving toward renewable energies like wind, water and solar. Coal and nuclear are still the main energy sources, however.

Today, energy suppliers understand that there is no one ultimate source of electricity – at least not yet – and so they have to have multiple sources. The industry is trying to stamp out the use of fossil fuels like coal to generate electricity and in its place is attempting to introduce renewable energy sources. A number of energy suppliers have built or are planning to build vast wind farms up and down the UK, for example, and EDF in particular are investing heavily in marine technology – a £3 million investment was made recently.

Renewable energy - wind

Smaller energy suppliers like Ebico and Ovo Energy have their own unique take on the energy mix. They don’t have the benefit of their own large-scale nuclear power plants, and so they usually buy energy from the big six by wholesale. They are however trying to limit their need for this by investing in renewable energy sources. The trouble is that for now, coal and nuclear is the only real-world energy source for generating electricity at the scale that the United Kingdom needs to function. Without these sources, we’d be in the dark.

Nobody can predict what will happen in the future, not even the best economists. What we can say however is that as climate change becomes more of an issue, and pressure is put on the energy suppliers to cut down on coal and gas, nuclear is likely to become the largest energy source by quite a margin. In an ideal world, renewable energy will be the number one in the future, but we as a civilisation are not yet ready to embrace it. Or, corporations are not yet ready to invest at the scale needed to make renewable energy our primary source of energy creation.

About the Author

Energy Company NumbersView all posts by Energy Company Numbers
Energy Company Numbers is a telephone number directory service dedicated to helping UK consumers keep in touch with their energy suppliers.

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