Today’s provisional energy consumption figures from DECC suggest a striking improvement in energy efficiency in 2013. The key ratio of primary energy use to UK GDP improved by about 4%. Expressed another way, energy consumption in 2013 fell by 2% as the economy grew by about 1.9%. This ratio has improved an average of 2.8% a year since 2000, suggesting that the rate of efficiency improvement may be increasing.
Whatever else the UK is doing wrong in energy policy, there’s little doubt that overall energy use is tending to fall quite sharply. Much of this improvement may be driven by rising energy prices. In recent years, the rise in wind power production has also helped; a turbine’s usable power is nearly as much the primary energy it produces but it takes about two units of input energy to make one unit of electricity from fossil fuel. This effect alone represented one percentage point of the decrease in total (‘primary’) energy use. Nevertheless if the UK returns to the average growth rates of pre-2007 of around 2-2.5% a year, total energy use seems likely to continue to fall.