Select Committee on Environmental Audit Seventh Report


  SEVENTH REPORT

CURRENT TRENDS

UK consumption

  14. In absolute terms the levels of both final and primary energy demand are roughly the same as those in the early 1970s while the economy has grown by 80 per cent. In other words over the last 25 years UK economic output has nearly doubled while consuming an equivalent amount of energy. Within this overall picture however sectoral trends have varied markedly. Industry's share of consumption has fallen from 40 to 23 per cent and so has contributed the bulk of the improvement. The transport sectors's share has risen from 20 to 33 per cent, while the share of services and the domestic sector has risen slightly to 44 per cent.[12] More recently primary energy use is forecast to rise by about 10 per cent between 1990 and 2000.[13]

Energy Intensity

  15. The ratio of energy consumption to economic output is expressed as the energy intensity of an economy and is a common proxy for a national energy efficiency rating. The UK's energy intensity since 1973 is shown overleaf in Table 1and demonstrates the de-coupling of economic growth, as defined by GDP, from energy consumption.


The following table reveals the same story applying to the development of a number of economies as well as for the process of economic development overall.


  Table 2: Energy intensity of industrialised countries since 1850

Source: Factor four: doubling wealth - halving resource use, Weizacker & Lovins, London, 1997, Earthscan

16. Changes to energy intensity are the result of both changes in efficiency of supply and use as well as changes in the structure of the economy (for example, a decline of activities with high energy-use such as manufacturing and growth of the high-value, low energy consuming service sector). DTI and International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates show that structural change, for example the 'export of energy intensive manufacturing', contributed about 10 per cent to the UK's fall in energy intensity since 1973 with the bulk of improvement due to efficiency gains in industry.[14]

Carbon intensity

  17. Energy intensity by itself does not reveal the balance of environmental impacts of different fuels. For example it is the carbon intensity of energy supply is the key indicator for the contribution to global warming.


Table 3      Energy and carbon intensity in selected countries, 1995

Country

Energy intensity

(toe1 per $1000 GDP)


Carbon intensity

(tonnes of carbon per toe1)


1. Italy

0.16

2.63  (rank no. 7)

2. Japan

0.2

2.31   (3)

3. UK

0.22

2.55  (5)

4. Germany

0.24

2.61  (6)

5. Sweden

0.33

1.11  (1)

6. USA

0.34

2.52  (4)

7. Canada

0.42

2.02  (2)

1. Toe = tonnes of oil equivalent

Source: Parliamentary Office of Science and technology (POST). See Appendix 1 to the Minutes of Evidence, HC159-II, 1998-99.

18. In the UK carbon intensity of primary energy consumption is expected to have fallen significantly between 1995 and 2000. This is largely the effect of the so-called 'dash for gas' within the electricity generating sector (and to a lesser extent within industry as a whole) in the increased use of more efficient generation technology such as combined cycle gas turbines and combined heat and power as well as better performance by nuclear power stations.[15] The Climate Change consultation paper allocates the estimated fall in UK industrial emissions of 6 million tonnes of carbon equivalent (MtC) between 1990 and 2000 as follows: 70 per cent to a reduction in carbon intensity, 20 per cent to increased energy efficiency and 10 per cent to changes in industrial structure (in line with the longer term estimates).[16] It is worth noting that, given the global nature of the climate change challenge, the 'export' of energy-intensive industry cannot be regarded as a contribution to solution of the overall problem. There may well be a net rise in global emissions, for instance, if the 'importing' country is outside the effective ambit of the UN Framework Convention and/or equipped with a more carbon-intensive energy supply.

International comparisons

  19. We were interested in benchmarking the UK's performance against other countries. Given the complexity of factors that affect energy intensity and the balance of environmental impacts across different fuel mixes, we recognise that this is no easy task but is important in terms of auditing performance as well as identifying best practice. We recommend that the UK, along with its international partners within the EU and the OECD seek to develop a set of indicators for national energy efficiency. These indicators should be based around:

We note that a number of these (marked*) appear in the description of the Government's chosen sustainable development indicators that was published alongside the revised UK Sustainable Development Strategy.

Towards 2010

  20. The following Table sets out the Government's UK sectoral emissions forecast culled from the climate change consultation paper.

Table 4  UK sectoral emissions, 1990, 2000, 2010

  Kyoto gases (MtC equivalent)

  Carbon dioxide (MtC)


    

1990 (outturn)

2000 (forecast)

2010 (forecast)

Energy supply1

carbon dioxide


72

63


55

50


59

54


Business

87

68


70

62


75

68


Transport

39

38


41

40


42

40


Domestic

47

43


41

38


41

38


Agriculture, etc2

26

10.6


23

9.3


22

8.4


Public

9.7

8.7


8.6

7.8


9.4

8.8


Total

216

168


189

157


194

163


Targets:  international domestic


2163


189

134

1. Figures for energy supply are also distributed between end-user sector figures.

2. Of which energy use: 1990—1.6Mtc; 2000—1.3Mtc; 2010—1.2MtC

3. UNFCCC target for 2000 relates to only carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide; the Kyoto Protocol relates to emissions of these gases plus hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

Source: Climate Change consultation paper, DETR, 1998.

Therefore while the target for 2000 of returning greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels appears to be within reach there are challenges ahead: 5 MtC of reductions to find in relation to Kyoto and 29 MtC in relation to the Government's manifesto pledge on CO2.

21. In evidence to us the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) criticised the DTI for its slow production of the next energy paper (Energy Paper 68) containing the latest energy forecasts. Mr Andrew Warren, Director of ACE, said that the climate change consultation document demonstrated that forecasts had changed but that these figures were not in the public domain.[17] We recognise a chicken and egg problem. A plethora of energy-related consultations and policy development have taken place which presumably both require, and will affect, forecasts of consumption. We were surprised to hear from the DETR in February, some months after the Climate Change Consultation document was published, that DTI had not formally shared with them its 'view of the world'.[18] Perhaps with the publication of the green paper on renewable energy there will now be a period of relative calm in this field from which these figures can emerge. We urge the DTI to publish its latest energy forecasts as soon as possible.


12  Energy Paper 66, DTI Back

13  Climate Change consultation paper, DETR. Back

14  Energy Paper 66, DTI and Energy Efficiency Initiative report, IEA, 1997 Back

15  Climate Change consultation paper, DETR, 1998 Back

16  Ibid Back

17  Q160 Back

18  Q239 Back


 
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