The British government announced that overall energy production last year was down 14 percent from the previous year. Oil and natural gas production both declined while low-carbon energy production grew. While the United Kingdom is making gains in the renewable energy sector, the crude oil numbers suggest there's still work to be done in decarbonizing the regional economy.
The British government released statistics for all sectors of the energy market for 2011. The provisional data showed overall petroleum production was down 17 percent and natural gas production was down by 20 percent compared to 2010 levels. For renewables, however, hydropower production was up 70 percent, wind power increased by 59 percent and nuclear power showed modest gains with an 11 percent increase compared to 2010 levels. With the region looking to generate 15 percent of its overall energy from renewable resources by 2020, these figures show the country has in some aspects turned the corner in its energy mix.
But there are some mixed messages in the energy statistics. London has touted its success in the wind energy market. It is the world leader in wind energy with around 1.6 gigawatts of installed capacity. That doesn't mean the country has moved away from a carbon-based economy, however. A report in The Guardian newspaper notes the appetite for wind power is waning and British Energy Minister Charles Hendry said his country was keen on diversity but still understood that fossil fuels will remain an important part of the energy mix. What could be inferred from the 2011 data is that green is gaining, but it's not yet quite ready for prime time in the energy sector.
The government said it exported more natural gas last year than ever before while at the same time lamenting the "large increases" in the volume of liquefied natural gas imported from Qatar. There still seems to be an imbalance in the mix even if last year's warmer weather is taken into consideration. The government added that last year, it imported more crude oil than it produced for the first time since 1978.
London said it would reform its energy sector in a way that would deliver a secure and affordable source of electricity from a variety of sources. This includes fossil fuels, renewable and new nuclear power. Each, the government said, would be important.
Yet there's still a gap. Granted, as technology advances, so too will green energy developments but it's not quite there yet. The government said it wanted to make low-carbon technology competitive by the next decade. There's still work to be done yet because, as Hendry stated, decarbonizing the energy sector will be the biggest change in the market since privatization began 1990. Renewables will be transformative, it's just going to take awhile.
By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com