Last reviewed 30 March 2021

Energy suppliers recorded a significant decrease in demand for commercial and transportation users, accompanied by a relative rise in domestic consumption, in line with more home working.

This month’s statistical release from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) highlights the effects of the pandemic on energy consumption in the UK.

Demand

Total energy demand fell by 12% as lockdown measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 put a strain on economic output. Most notably, transport energy demand fell by 28%, with aviation down 60% on levels recorded in 2019.

Energy requirements for industrial use and services including shops, restaurants, offices were also down 8% on 2019, marking an overall demand fall across these sectors to levels not seen since the 1980s.

Despite warmer weather, BEIS reported a 2% rise in domestic demand, which was attributed to higher domestic use and more time spent working from home.

Supply

More favourable weather conditions in the Spring of 2020 meant that renewables contributed 42.9% of the UK’s total generation, a record high, where fossil fuels contributed only 38.5%. This marks the first time that renewables have eclipsed fossil fuels in total energy contributed.

The UK produced less energy from nuclear and non-renewable sources in 2020, but production from renewables and bioenergy continued to rise. Nuclear energy was down 11%, due to a series of unforeseen outages at UK nuclear plants.

The sharp increase in renewable generation was predominantly attributed to the high levels produced by wind, which increased by 18% compared to 2019. Offshore wind, in particular, generated 26% more electricity in 2020 than in the previous year.

The ONS is yet to announce the release of the next UK Environmental Account, the first since June of last year, but these data, provided by suppliers and collated by BEIS, should help to paint a more detailed picture of 2020’s impact on the UK economy and its green commitments.