Potential Future Of Energy In The UK

This is a short guide outlining what the different forecasts and estimates say the future of the UK’s energy mix might look like (what energy sources provide energy and electricity).


Summary – Energy Outlook For The Future In The UK

At present, the UK gets most of it’s energy and electricity from natural gas (which has largely replaced coal), although renewables and nuclear make up a larger % of electricity specifically, at 24.5% and 21% respectively

Although fossil fuels make up a large % of the UK’s energy mix right now, there has been strong interest shown on a national level to move towards lower carbon energy (by 2030 and 2050) such as nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, and carbon capture usage and storage, low carbon heat, and the use of electric vehicles

Already, on a good day, low carbon sources of energy like nuclear, wind and solar are making up up to 75% of the UK’s electricity supply.

There have been deals agreed to shore up wind energy to supply around one third of total energy supply by 2030, and solar is looking to grow as well with competitive prices.

Realistically though, if the UK wants to make energy more efficient and low carbon in the electricity, transport and heating sectors – they will need to have a diversified energy mix that continues to develop over time.

This will most likely still include fossil fuels over the short to medium term, along with new nuclear, and the continued development of renewables

Variability of renewable energy, along with an increased electricity demand if more electric vehicles continue to come on the road make that last point even more realistic.

This is not considering the additional step of connecting predominantly gas fed heating systems to a lower carbon energy source

It’s likely hundreds of billions of pounds need to be invested to make a cleaner energy mix happen

Some sources are very skeptical of long term renewable and nuclear energy policy and plans because of various factors

Strength of the economy, demand by consumers, investment in different types of energy, and laws and regulations on carbon intensive energy sources and electric vs conventional combustion engine vehicles are likely to impact this.

Laws, regulations and policies are also very important


A few more general notes are:

There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the future energy mix of any country, such as macroeconomic growth and market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies … just to name a few. Social, economic, environmental and logistical pros and cons of different energy sources also have to be weighed up

In reality, we can look at past energy data, and current trends of energy production and consumption.

We can then use modelled projections to predict what might happen with energy in the future based on different assumptions and methodologies

But, energy forecasts are not definitive – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction

Energy mixes can differ on a state or city based level, compared to the national trends as a whole – state and local governments can have some say in this

% of a type of energy source is different to total numbers.

For example, % share of renewables might go up in 30 years, but emissions and air pollutants might not actually reduce if the same amount of fossil fuel in total are still being used (a growing population can have something to do with this for example)

When looking at renewables as an energy source, different types of renewables can make up different % shares e.g. solar or hydroelectric might make up more than wind for example

Fossil fuels, nuclear and other types of energy sources in the future might start specialising or diverging into sub-types e.g. clean coal technology vs regular coal

Electrification of cars (moving away from oil based fuel) and other vehicles could have a significant impact on the overall energy and electricity mix of a country


Forecasts & Predictions Of Energy Sources In The UK In The Future

[in the last 12 years, from 2006 to 2018, the UK’s electricity supply makeup has changed dramatically – coal in particular has seen a significant decrease in terms of %]

… the National Grid now expects to be able to operate a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025

… the government recently [agreed to] a major deal for offshore wind to produce one-third of the UK’s power by 2030

… solar prices are still decreasing in the UK

[In 2018 already, on days of strong wind and sun, over 75% of the UK’s electricity comes from low carbon sources like nuclear, solar and wind]

[it’s realistic to say that fossil fuels will still probably play a role in the short to medium term for UK energy supply because of factors like variability of renewable energy sources (on days of no wind and little sun), and because of an anticipated doubling of electricity demand in the next decade as electric vehicles increase in number on roads. Even nuclear running alongside everything else likely won’t change this]

[if heating systems move from natural gas to a lower carbon source – this will put more demand on the renewable energy system]

[As of today] more than 80% of the total UK energy supply, including electricity, land transport and heat, still comes from fossil fuels

Diversification and continued development of all energy sources is what the UK needs going forward

[Heat, transport and power are the main focuses going forward when it comes to energy – but there are many variables at play that will determine what direction the UK goes in]

– theconversation.com


The UK’s nuclear power stations will close gradually over the next decade or so, with all but one expected to stop running by 2025.

Several companies have plans to build a new generation of [nuclear] reactors

[it is expected renewables] will rise as the UK aims to meet its EU target of generating 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020

– energy-uk.org.uk


By 2035, one scenario might be:

New nuclear plants should be operational by the late 2020’s

Offshore wind will continue to grow by the early 2020’s

… combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) are still on the grid for flexibility and balance

… [there could be a] potential tripling of installed solar and wind in the system in 2035 (50-77GW) compared to 2018’s 27GW, with local areas providing close to half of the country’s power generation capacity (34-45%)

… [roughly another] £170 billion [may need to be invested in UK energy to meet decarbonisation and security of supply targets by 2030]

[By 2050, every heating source will need to be decarbonised … but how this is achieved is not yet clear]

By 2030 [electric vehicles] may represent over half of all new vehicle sales, and account for more than one-third of cars and vans on the road (approximately 10 million). [But, there are challenges to this … such as finding the amount of electricity to support these EVs]

– energy-uk.org.uk


… there’s 4 potential energy scenarios that could be in the UK’s future

…  they range from a low economic growth scenario with little work done to decarbonise energy, all the way up to a highly ambitious scenario where there is strong customer demand for renewables, strong investment in renewables, and a high uptake of electric vehicles on roads

– opusenergyblog.com


[natural gas has largely taken the place of coal in the last decade in the UK]

… at least 5 billion pounds is being invested in a new oil development on the UK Continental Shelf

[a] UK offshore wind business has the long term potential to provide low carbon electricity to approximately 5 million homes, [and currently provide electricity to 650,000 homes]

– equinor.com


… the Government wants to close all remaining coal plants by 2025

Today the UK has 15 operating nuclear reactors … which are mostly due to retire by 2030 … [but, new nuclear projects are struggling at the moment to get going]

[offshore wind in the UK has been successful as a power source, but onshore wind and solar struggle to compete, as well as geothermal or marine power]

[some say offshore wind is limited in it’s capacity]

Nuclear costs have been increasing, partly due to the novelty of the reactors, greater regulation, and investment risks from the uncertain, and long-term nature of the projects

[Overall, some sources are very skeptical of long term renewable and nuclear energy policy and plans because of various factors]

– commonslibrary.parliament.uk


Future Of Renewable Energy In The UK

The UK has low carbon energy targets up through until 2030 and 2050

Some of the best case scenarios see solar grow to 30% of electricity share by 2020 (up from 24.5% in 2016), and solar and wind triple by 2030.

Some estimates see wind providing one third of energy by about 2030

But, there is still a lot of investment required for this to become reality (in the hundreds of billions of dollars), and variables that will determine to what extent renewables help meet this targets

Some sources are very skeptical of long term renewable and nuclear energy policy and plans because of various factors



1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

2. https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/our-work/generation/electricity-generation.html

3. https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/files/docs/The_Future_of_Energy/2019/E-UK_FutureofEnergy_SummaryReport2019_23.04.19.pdf

4. http://www.opusenergyblog.com/future-gazing-will-energy-industry-2050/

5. https://www.equinor.com/no/magazine/shaping-the-future-of-energy-in-the-uk.html#gas-and-the-future-of-energy-in-the-uk

6. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/science/energy/mind-the-gap-challenges-for-future-uk-energy-policy/

7. http://theconversation.com/despite-good-progress-100-low-carbon-energy-is-still-a-long-way-off-for-the-uk-114949

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