Electricity Generation Efficiency – UK 2012

Through much of Europe generating capacity is ageing and the fossil fuel market on which it largely depends is proving increasingly volatile. Renewable energy sources represent an opportunity to use indigenous, safe and secure forms of energy and avoid unnecessary distribution costs. By being widely distributed they also give us the chance to stop losing energy through transmission and distribution losses to the extent we are now.

In 2012 around 920 TWh of primary energy (the energy contained in raw fuels, renewable and non-renewable) went into electricity generation in the UK. Due to conversion efficiencies during electricity generation and losses during its transmission, 65% of this energy was lost – primarily as heat. With around 320TWh reaching the end user, this equates to an overall supply efficiency of around 35%, or a loss of nearly two units of energy per one unit consumed. This does not include the considerable amounts of energy used to extract, transport, and store fuels such as coal, gas and uranium prior to use. The diagram below shows this flow of energy from primary source to end user in the UK electricity system for 2012:

UK Flowchart 2012

The reality of electricity generated in the UK is that most of it is still created by burning largely imported fossil fuels. These are not only both finite and carbon intensive, but are also wasteful in terms of the proportion of their energy that we are actually able to extract and use.

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