By Simon Evans
The latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveals a nation in the midst of a low-carbon transition. However, it also shows that fossil fuel extraction increased for the first time in 15 years.
Carbon Brief has produced five charts to show what happened to the UK's energy mix in 2015.
1. Fossil Decline
Fossil fuels supplied 82 percent of the UK's primary energy in 2015, by far the lowest share in records going back nearly half a century. Within that, coal use fell to 25 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe), down 21 percent in a year and just one quarter of the amount used in 1970.
Top: UK primary energy use by source, millions of tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe), 1970-2015. Bottom: Shares of UK energy use (percent). Source: DUKES table 1.1.1.Carbon Brief / Highcharts
The fall in coal use means it reached a new nadir, having already dropped to levels not seen since the industrial revolution. Oil and gas demand increased slightly in 2015, up 1.4 percent and 2.7 percent respectively because of falling prices and cooler weather compared to a year earlier.
2. Transport Turnaround
Overall, UK energy use increased slightly in 2015, though it continued its decade-long decline once variations in weather are taken into account. Transport energy use is now the exception to this trend, having increased for two years running as cheap oil fuels increased traffic.
UK energy use by sector (Mtoe), 1970-2015. Source: DUKES table 1.1.5.Carbon Brief / Highcharts
Domestic energy use continues to fall, with ups and downs due to the weather. It's interesting to note that reductions in industrial energy use appear to be tailing off, either because energy efficiency efforts are slowing or because output is increasing.
3. Low-Carbon Power
The speed of the UK's low-carbon transition has been particularly dramatic in the electricity sector. Nuclear (21 percent) and renewables (25 percent) generated nearly half of the UK's electricity in 2015, with renewables up five percentage points.
Top: UK electricity generation by source, terawatt hours (TWh), 1996-2015. Bottom: Shares of UK electricity generation (percent). Source: DUKES table 5.5. Carbon Brief / Highcharts
Coal-fired power generation continues to plummet, falling by a quarter in one year and by nearly half since 2012, the high point of the past two decades. Coal has fallen even further in the first half of 2016. Notably electricity generated from gas has remained steady, with renewables claiming market share from coal.
4. Renewable Rise
Wind, solar and biomass all contributed to the rising share of renewable electricity. Onshore wind generation increased by 23 percent on a year earlier, while offshore wind and biomass grew 30 percent as new wind farms were completed and Drax continued its conversion from coal to wood pellets.
The largest percentage increase was for solar, which grew 87 percent year-on-year and met around 2 percent of the UK's electricity needs for 2015. In May 2016, Carbon Brief analysis showed that solar generated more electricity than coal for a full month for the first time ever.
UK renewable electricity by source (TWh), 1990-2015. Source: DUKES table 6.1.1.Carbon Brief / Highcharts
The increases in solar and biomass electricity are unlikely to continue at such a rate during 2016. Solar installation rates surged during 2015 to take advantage of closing subsidy schemes, while Drax is unlikely to convert further coal units to biomass for the foreseeable future.
5. Maximizing Recovery
While the UK is in the midst of a low-carbon transition, that doesn't mean it has stopped the extraction of fossil fuels. In fact, combined coal, oil and gas production rose in 2015, the first annual increase since 1999. Within this increase, coal extraction fell by 26 percent year-on-year.
UK fossil fuel extraction by source (Mtoe), 1998-2015. Source: Dukes table 1.1. Carbon Brief / Highcharts
The government has made it a legal obligation to draw up strategies to "maximize economic recovery" of UK fossil fuel resources. As chancellor, George Osborne introduced a series of tax breaks designed to meet this obligation. The exchequer is actually paying some oil majors, as they can reclaim tax paid in previous years to offset the costs of decommissioning North Sea assets.
As ever, it's worth keeping a longer-term perspective on the UK's low-carbon transition. While last year saw record contributions from low-carbon sources, the UK still relies on fossil fuels for 82 percent of its energy and 54 percent of its power.
The UK's fifth carbon budget, recently passed into law, will require the power sector to be largely decarbonized by 2030. Meanwhile, the Paris agreement on climate change means the UK has pledged, along with almost 200 other nations, to almost completely decarbonize all energy use soon after mid-century. There's a long way to go.
Below, Carbon Brief has produced an animated GIF of the DUKES energy flow charts for the UK 2012-2015. It shows at a glance how the inputs and outputs to UK energy use have changed over recent years.
The flows show shares of each year's total, obscuring the overall decline in energy use noted above. Even so, some interesting trends are visible.
Note, for instance, how coal use shrinks over the four-year period, while the darker pink band showing renewable electricity inputs grows.
It's also worth noting that this year the chart is published by BEIS, the new department created in a merger of the old Department of Energy and Climate Change and the department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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