Provisional figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have revealed a 3.4% drop in greenhouse gas emissions last year. This decrease is thanks in large part to falling coal use, with emissions dropping below 500 million tonnes for the first time. The biggest polluter, carbon dioxide, fell 4% to 405 million tonnes between 2014 and 2015, with other greenhouse gases dropping 3%.
The decline in carbon dioxide emissions has been driven by a 13% fall in carbon emissions across the UK energy supply sector as coal-fired power stations close and renewable energy resources are rapidly rolled out. This year will see the closure of plants at Longannet and Ferrybridge, which will remove as much as 7 gigawatts of coal-fired power from the UK grid.
As a result of the closure of the SSI Steelworks at Redcar, Greenhouse gas emissions from the business sector fell by 3.1%, driven by the reduction in blast furnace gas for iron and steel industrial combustion.
Emissions from the public sector, UK transport infrastructure, and homes all rose, as cooler than usual temperatures throughout 2015 leading to an increase in heating.
The use of Renewable resources within the UK energy sector continues to grow. Renewables made up 24.7% of the UK electrical generation in 2015, increasing 5.6% from the previous year. Wind Energy rose 26%, with Wind output now large enough now to power over 10 million British households. BioEnergy saw 28% growth while Solar shot up to 86%.
Concerns, however, have been raised that margins between peak demand and total power generation will be tight this winter. Professor of energy and climate change policy at University College London, Michael Grubb warned that The system has the greatest risk of supply stress this winter… I don’t think the lights will go out for any domestic consumers, but there are other things that may have to be done.”
Measures are planned to allow for greater interconnectors with the European grid over the coming year and the creation of more schemes to manage demand.
While these the latest figures make it clear the decline of coal has had a large impact on the Carbon Emissions in the UK, it also highlights the challenges of the next phase of decarbonisations.
The reduction in emissions has been helped by a general decrease in demand. The DECC data reveals 10% drop in energy demand since the 1990’s. As many government-led energy efficiency schemes have now been scaled down, ended or cut, the effect of this reduction will undoubtedly be softened in coming years