Electricity supplied in Great Britain continued to fall last year with marked regional differences emerging in the reduction in power demand seen over the last few years.

Last year, total GB electricity supplied was 285TWh, a fall of 1.5 percent from 2012 and 11.5 percent lower than the pre-recession peak of 322TWh in 2007.  This reduction is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 8.7m homes*.

The figures are provided in a 2013 GB Electricity Supply & Generation Summary provided by energy market data specialists EnAppSys.

Within the figures there are distinct regional differences in the reduction in power demand around the country. Since 2007 southern England and London have seen lower falls in electricity supplied than in other regions, indicating a stronger economic resilience in this part of the country.

For example, since 2007, electricity supplied in London has fallen by less than 5 percent, compared to reductions of around 33 percent and 29 percent in Northern Scotland and Northern England.

Other areas of the country, including Yorkshire, South Wales, the North West and the East Midlands have registered a decline in electricity demand of between 10 and 15 percent over the six year period.

Paul Verril, a Director of EnAppSys, said: “Some of this reduction in Scotland and the North will be due to the introduction of energy efficiency measures and an increase in the number of embedded wind farms and solar PV panels that meet local demand.

“However, a lot of this reduction is the result of the economic slowdown.”

During 2013 coal-fired power stations continued to be the dominant source of electricity supply, providing 41 percent of all GB generation, whilst combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) units provided 26 percent, nuclear 21 percent and wind farms a further 6 percent.

Although total levels of electricity generation have fallen since 2010, levels of coal-fired generation have climbed 22 percent in the same period despite a reduction in the number of coal-fired power stations as older facilities are closed down. As a result, coal plants still in operation saw utilisation rates rise from 41 percent in 2010 to 57 percent in 2013.

The rise in coal’s share of the country’s power output has been attributed largely to declining activity in gas-fired electricity generation, which is mainly the result of falling coal prices, the collapse of the EU ETS carbon price and rising LNG (liquid natural gas) prices due to amongst other factors, Fukushima. The drivers on coal prices are the reduction in US coal consumption due to gas displacing coal for power generation because of the shale gas boom..

The largest increase in electricity generation from a single fuel type has come from wind farms, which produced 48 percent more electricity in 2013 compared to 2012 – and 405 percent more than in 2010. This growth enabled wind to provide 6 percent of total generation last year and 8 percent of total generation in Q4 2013.

Paul Verril, a Director of EnAppSys, said: “Last year several older coal-fired stations were closed down as a part of an EU-led directive to reduce Europe-wide sulphur and nitrous oxide emissions and the introduction of the UK’s carbon floor price, with further closures expected in the coming years as further European directives are implemented. Nevertheless, coal continued to dominate UK power production. 

“In the future, increases in gas-fired power stations and wind capacity are expected to replace lost coal capacity, with wind in particular forecast to provide a greater share of total energy production as more projects come on stream.”

In terms of carbon emissions, GB electricity generation produced 127 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013 – the second lowest figure in the last five years and down 7 percent from 2012 as several coal plants went offline and levels of generation from wind farms increased. 2013 levels were 8 percent lower than the five-year emissions high in 2010 when total electricity generation volumes peaked at 328TWh.