UK greenhouse gas emissions down 3.4% in 2015 on less coal use -govt estimates

Published 11:36 on March 31, 2016  /  Last updated at 11:36 on March 31, 2016  /  EMEA, EU ETS  /  No Comments

The UK’s greenhouse gas output dropped by 3.4% in 2015 mainly due to less coal being used by the energy sector, according to provisional estimates published by the government on Thursday.

The UK’s greenhouse gas output dropped by 3.4% in 2015 mainly due to less coal being used by the energy sector, according to provisional estimates published by the government on Thursday.

The country emitted 497.2 million tonnes of CO2e last year, down from 514.4 million in 2014, with the energy supply sector leading the way lower with a 13% reduction to 136 million tonnes.

“Since 2014, emissions from power stations have decreased by 17%, largely due to changes in the fuel mix,” the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a report, adding that with output of 101.5 million tonnes, power plants accounted for just over a quarter of the total figure.

“In particular there was a 24% decrease in coal use for generation, resulting from the conversion of a unit at the Drax plant from coal to biomass and the temporary closure of some plants due to market conditions, in addition to an increase in the carbon floor price from Apr. 2015.  There was increased use of nuclear and renewables for electricity generation (10% and 29% increases respectively).”

Other areas of the UK energy supply sector grew their emissions by nearly 2 million tonnes to 34.5 million tonnes, the data showed.

Meanwhile, British businesses emitted 3.1% less at 70.1 million tonnes, a drop DECC attributed largely to reductions in the steel sector caused by a major plant closure in Redcar.

Output of the seven main greenhouse gases across almost all of the UK’s other sectors, most of which are not covered by the EU ETS, either rose or were flat.

The residential sector grew its GHG emissions by 4.9% to 64 million tonnes due to the increased use of gas for heating, DECC said, while transport was up 1.4% to 118.3 million tonnes.

The UK’s actual CO2 emissions, which account for more than 80% of its total GHG output, were estimated at 404.7 million tonnes, down 4.1% year-on-year.

However, on a temperature adjusted basis, the government estimated that the country’s GHG emissions actually rose by 12.1 million tonnes or 2.4%, but this was masked by warmer-than-expected weather.

The UK’s average temperature in 2015 was 0.4 degrees C higher than the long-term mean, whereas it was 1 degree higher in 2014.

The overall reduction in GHG output last year means the UK has cut its GHG emissions by 38% below 1990, blowing past its second and third carbon budgets, which call for cuts of 29% between 2013-17, and of 35% by 2020.

Last year’s drop outpaces the 1.74% annual reduction in the EU ETS emissions cap, translating into less British demand for carbon allowances and adding to bearish pressure on EUA prices, while also putting the UK on course towards achieving its share of the EU’s 40% reduction target for 2030.

However, experts warn that significant reductions must still be made to achieve the country’s domestic target, as set out in its fourth carbon budget, of a 50% cut by 2025.

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com

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