The changing nature of our energy consumption

We often take it for granted, but energy is an absolutely vital component of civilisation as we know it. Without energy, there would be no transportation system, no food manufacturing industry and, as painful as it is to say, no radiators. The question of where our energy actually comes from and how we use it is an interesting one, and one that probably very few of us think about. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), we in Britain are using less power than we did in 1970, despite the population increasing by a further 6.5 million in that time. The are several reasons for this, with one of the most important being that we are much more efficient at producing energy and using it than we used to. In addition, the nature of Britain’s economy has changed since 1970, with us no longer being the manufacturing powerhouse we once were, which has meant we no longer use as much energy fuelling this type of industry. Industry uses 60% less power than it did in 1970, while households use 12% less. However, within the transport industry, there has been an increase of 50% in energy use, largely due to additional cars on the road and the huge growth in the aviation industry. A few interesting differences in the way we use energy are: - In 1970, we used 57 tonnes of oil equivalent in coal and manufactured fuels, whereas in 2014 we used only 3 million tonnes. - In 1970, coal accounted for two-thirds of all electricity generation, but last year, coal accounted for less than half. - In 1970, we used 13 million tonnes of oil. In 2014, we used just 750,000 tonnes. It’s predicted that we will be using the same amount of energy in 2030 as we do today, but the way we generate energy is expected to change quite significantly. The DECC expects the new generation of nuclear power stations to make a difference in the 2020s, increasing our use of nuclear energy. It also hopes that by 2030 we will be getting up to 40% of our electricity from renewable sources such as wind farms and solar generated power. We may well increase in size as a nation, but hopefully the way we generate energy will be increasingly efficient and better for the environment resulting in us not dramatically increasing our energy consumption over the next half decade. Article by Benjamin Clarke
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