Tim Rotheray, ADE: About 10 years ago, when I started working in energy, one of the first set of figures I learned was 3,300 and 15,000. These were the average annual household energy consumption for electricity and gas in kilowatt hours. These numbers became fixed in my mind. But analysis produced at the beginning of the year by Carbon Brief, showed that rather than being fixed, power demand was falling and it has continued to do so. Power demand has been decreasing since 2005 and last year it fell to a record low. In fact, that reduction in demand has been greater than the growth in renewable power output over the same time. This fall in demand translates into lower bills – energy efficiency measures across both heat and power use installed since 2004 save the average household around £500 per year. Silently, energy efficiency has dramatically cut not just our bills but also UK emissions and, by reducing our overall power demand, efficiency has helped low carbon generation to meet more than half of Britain’s power needs. Millions of small, unseen actions taken by homes, businesses and the public sector, have saved over 100 terawatt hours of power. You would need a 1GW nuclear power station operating since 2005 to produce the same amount of power. This is excellent progress but there is so much further to go. Energy demand in homes could be cut by as much as half again and there are very significant opportunities in the non-domestic sector too. This is essential not only for the power sector but also for the tricky challenge of heat decarbonisation. The value of this falling demand was made stark as Hitachi dropped its plans for new UK nuclear. Energy efficiency has reduced the need for new generation. But, while efficiency can meet some of this generation gap we are also likely to need a greater increase in renewables too. The dramatic falls in the costs of renewable power offer hope that the costs of this can be low; excellent news that was unimaginable just a few years ago. But the variable nature of renewable power will also require increases in system flexibility.
Business Green 24th Jan 2019 read more »