Energy resources in the UK

The mixture of primary energy sources used is called the energy mix. The energy mix of the UK consists mostly of gas, coal and nuclear fuel. The last oil-fired power station in the UK closed in 2015.

The growth of renewable energy

The UK has been reliant on fossil fuels for many years. Global supplies of fossil fuels were once thought to be running out. However, as technology improves, new supplies can be discovered and accessed more easily. There are huge, barely tapped reserves in South America, Africa and the Arctic.

It is estimated that gas will last another 50 years and coal another 112 years. Around 40% of the UK's gas supply currently comes from domestic supplies (the North Sea). However, UK supplies of fossil fuels could run out within just 5 years.

Renewable fuels make up less than 10% of the UK's energy mix. The government needs to increase this figure to 15% by 2020 to meet its European Union target. The UK has a lot of potential for generating renewable energy:

  • Over 50% of all renewable energy generated in the UK comes from wind farms. Most of this is from onshore turbines, but the number of offshore turbines is increasing.
  • The amount of UK electricity generated through hydroelectric power (HEP) has remained the same since 2012. This will not increase unless new dams are built.
  • Less than 0.01% of UK energy is generated through tidal power. The UK is an island nation and could generate around 20% of its electricity using waves and tides.
  • Solar panels are becoming more common, particularly on peoples' homes. The UK government think that 4% of our electricity could come from solar power by 2020.
Renewable energy sources include tidal, solar, wind and hydro-electric power.

Issues associated with energy exploitation

There are economic and environmental issues that are associated with the exploitation of energy sources:

Economic

Generating electricity costs a lot of money. There are initial costs, such as building power stations, dams and wind farms. There are also maintenance and running costs, such as buying fuel, repairing damage to structures and disposing of waste products. The government must balance these costs with other important things that the country must buy. They must also decide whether to invest in non-renewable or renewable options.

Environmental

Generating electricity has many environmental issues:

  • Fossil fuel powered stations create emissions, noise from trains transporting coal, and waste products like ash. They have also been linked to high levels of radiation.
  • The uranium used in nuclear power plants is highly radioactive and the waste products have to be kept away from people indefinitely.
  • Renewable energies like wind and solar power can be considered visual pollution. Tidal power and HEP dams may affect marine ecosystems.
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