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World Environment Day, 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 31 May 2012 Download PDF

Abstract

The United Nations World Environment Day is on the 5 June 2012. The theme this year is 'The Green Economy: Does it include you?' This short article of UK Environmental Accounts has been released by the Office for National Statistics for this event to show how the economy impacts on the environment. The article includes statistics on emissions per unit of energy consumed, how this has changed over the last two decades and explains how this is the result of switching to cleaner fuels. It also provides information on the use of renewable sources for energy consumption in the UK and the amount of energy supplied per person compared to other countries. This article is produced as part of the Measuring National Well-being programme. The next annual update of the UK Environmental accounts including emissions and energy accounts for 2010 will be published on 27 June 2012.

Key Points

The key points from this release are:

  • Between 1990 and 2009 the amount of CO2 equivalent green house gases emitted for every tonne of oil equivalent used fell by one fifth.

  • Between 1990 and 1999, the UK had the fourth largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy intensity in the EU-27, a greater reduction than the EU-27 average. However between 2000 and 2009 the UK reduction was 23rd out of EU-27 countries, a smaller reduction than the EU-27 average.

  • The main reason for the reduction in emissions in the UK has been from switching to using fuel types that emit less CO2 equivalent green house gases.

  • Energy consumption from renewable sources of energy has trebled since 1990 however in 2009 the UK was placed 32 out of 34 OECD countries with around three per cent of total primary energy supply from renewable sources.

  • Energy supply in the UK has decreased by 12 per cent between 1990 and 2009. This was one of the largest decreases and UK supply remains well below the OECD average.

  • In the UK in 2009, 6.7 per cent of electricity consumed was generated from renewable sources. This was 2.7 times below the EU-27 average of 18.2 per cent despite the UK proportion increasing at 2.6 times the rate for the EU-27 between 1990 and 2009.

Emissions per unit of energy consumed in the UK reduced by a fifth

According to the latest UK Environmental Accounts, for each tonne of oil equivalent that was used for energy in 1990, 3.71 tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases were emitted.  By 2009, this figure had dropped to 2.96 tonnes, a reduction of one fifth (20.2 per cent). 

Between 1990 and 2009 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 21.9 per cent and for the same period energy consumption in the UK1 decreased by 2.2 per cent.

Emissions per unit energy consumed

UK resident basis

Emissions per unit energy consumed, 1990-2009

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Source: Office for National Statistics

Notes for Emissions per unit of energy consumed in the UK reduced by a fifth

  1. Energy consumption including energy from renewable sources.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Energy Consumption

Using Eurostat data it is possible to compare greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy consumption1 across Europe2. Between 1990 and 1999, the UK had the fourth largest reduction in emissions intensity in the EU-273, a greater reduction than the EU-27 average. However, the map compares 2009 with 2000 and in this period the UK reduction was 23rd out of EU-27 countries, a smaller reduction than the EU-27 average.

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy consumption, 2009

index 2000=100

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity of energy consumption (index 2000=100)

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Source: Eurostat

Notes for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity of Energy Consumption

  1. The greenhouse gas intensity of energy consumption is the ratio between energy-related greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and gross inland energy consumption.

  2. Estimates from Eurostat differ slightly from those produced in the UK Environmental Accounts as they are calculated on a UK territorial rather than resident basis. Eurostat estimates include emissions by foreign visitors while in the UK and exclude UK resident emissions while abroad.

  3. EU-27 refers to the 27 member states of the EU (year of entry): Austria (1995); Belgium (1952); Bulgaria (2007); Cyprus (2004); Czech Republic (2004); Denmark (1973); Estonia (2004); Finland (1995); France (1952); Germany (1952); Greece (1981); Hungary (2004); Ireland (1973); Italy (1952); Latvia (2004); Lithuania (2004); Luxembourg (1952); Malta (2004); Netherlands (1952); Poland (2004); Portugal (1986); Romania (2007); Slovakia (2004); Slovenia (2004); Spain (1986); Sweden (1995); United Kingdom (1973). The map and data tables additionally include data for candidate countries Croatia and Turkey and other European countries Norway and Switzerland. Further details from http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/index_en.htm.

Fuel Switching

Most of the reduction of emissions  in the UK has been as a result of fuel switching.  Natural gas emits less greenhouse gases  than coal for each unit of energy that is produced. Use of natural gas increased from 51.1 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) in 1990 to 95.2 mtoe in 2001 but has since declined to 85.2 mtoe in 2009. Over the same period, use of coal for energy production halved, from 65.6 mtoe in 1990 to 31.2 mtoe in 2009, although there was an increase between 1999 and 2006 from 35.2 mtoe to 43.0 mtoe. Fuel oil and gas oil also emit more greenhouse gas than natural gas and the use of these fuels decreased from 18.4 mtoe to 6.5 mtoe and 9.4 mtoe to 6.3 mtoe respectively.

Further detail is available from the Carbon Fuel Use by Type 1990-2009 table:  RFTcarbonfuelusebytype (571 Kb Excel sheet)

Energy from fossil fuels, 1990-2009

Percentage of total energy consumed including energy from renewable sources; UK Resident basis

Percentage of total energy consumed including energy from renewable sources from fossil fuels; UK Resident basis

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Source: AEA Energy & Environment, ONS

Fossil fuel sources of energy1 provide around nine tenths of UK energy consumption.  Energy from other sources such as nuclear energy, hydroelectric power and imports increased from 17.7 mtoe in 1990 to 25.0 mtoe in 1998 then decreased to 13.9 mtoe in 2008 before increasing to 16.7 mtoe in 2009. Energy consumption from renewable sources of energy2 has trebled since 1990 (from 1.8 mtoe to 5.4 mtoe) which offsets the overall decrease in other sources. However in 2009 the UK was placed 32nd out of 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries with around three per cent of total primary energy supply from renewable sources.

Further detail is available from the data Energy Consumption 1990-2009 table: RFTenergyconsumption (57.5 Kb Excel sheet)

Notes for Fuel Switching

  1. Direct use of energy from fossil fuels differs slightly from carbon fuel use by type as for example transformed fuels are excluded.

  2. Renewable sources of energy: Solar and energy from wind, wave and tide, hydroelectricity, wood straw and sewage gas as well as landfill gas and municipal solid waste combustion.

Energy Supply per person

As well as looking at energy consumption it is also possible to look at the amount of energy supplied per person in different countries. Energy supply differs from consumption as it includes losses from distribution1. Energy supply in the UK has decreased by 12 per cent from 3,600 kg of oil equivalent per person in 1990 to 3,180 kg per person in 2009. Compared to other countries where data is available, this was one of the larger decreases and UK supply remains well below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 4,280 kg per person in 2009.

Energy Supply

Selected OECD Countries

Energy Supply 1990-2009

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Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Notes for Energy Supply per person

  1. Energy Supply (Apparent Consumption): Total primary energy domestic supply (sometimes referred to as energy use) is calculated by the International Energy Agency as production of fuels + inputs from other sources + imports - exports - international marine bunkers + stock changes. It includes coal, crude oil, natural gas liquids, refinery feedstocks, additives, petroleum products, gases, combustible renewables and waste, electricity and heat. Domestic supply differs from final consumption in that it does not take account of distribution losses. The supply and use of energy commodities are converted to kilogrammes of oil equivalent using standard coefficients for each energy source. http://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=6328

Electricity from Renewable Sources

Focusing on electricity consumed rather than energy supplied, the percentage generated from renewable sources1 for the UK in 2009 was 6.7 per cent. This was 2.7 times below the EU-27 average of 18.2 per cent despite the UK proportion increasing at 2.6 times the rate for the EU-27 between 1990 and 2009. The proportion of renewable sources used to generate electricity varied by country across the EU-27 in 2009. Austria generated the most electricity from renewable sources at around 66.8 per cent, followed by Sweden and Latvia at 56.4 per cent and 49.2 per cent respectively. All three of these countries have major hydropower. Over a third of EU-27 countries generated less than 10 per cent of electricity from renewable sources in 2009. Further information on this and an analysis of domestic energy consumption is available from a previous article on the  Environment (206.2 Kb Pdf) . This showed that between 1970 and 2008 over four fifths of domestic energy was for space and water heating, energy use for lighting and appliances increased but energy use for cooking in the home fell.

Electricity generated from renewable sources, 2009

Percentages of gross electricity consumption for European Countries

Percentages of gross electricity consumption generated from renewable sources for European Countries

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Source: Eurostat

Notes for Electricity from Renewable Sources

  1. The ratio between the electricity produced from renewable energy sources and the gross national electricity consumption for a given calendar year. It measures the contribution of electricity produced from renewable energy sources to the national electricity consumption. Electricity produced from renewable energy sources comprises the electricity generation from hydro plants (excluding pumping), wind, solar, geothermal and electricity from biomass/wastes. Gross national electricity consumption comprises the total gross national electricity generation from all fuels (including autoproduction), plus electricity imports, minus exports.

About the ONS measuring national well-being programme

The estimates in this release are taken from the UK Environmental Accounts which are part of the ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme. The programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation - how the UK as a whole is doing.

Find out more on the Measuring National Well-being website pages.

Background notes

  1. The next annual update of the UK Environmental accounts including emissions and energy accounts for 2010 will be published on 27 June 2012 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/taxonomy/index.html?nscl=Environmental+Accounts

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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