IEA report shows reliance on gas is a threat to UK energy security

Carbon emissions from the UK electricity sector jumped by a fifth in 2021, the first rise in almost a decade, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. The increase is due to a 17% rise in gas-fired electricity supply, driven, in part, by a drop in renewable generation, the IEA says.

The UK’s costly reliance on gas to stabilise the grid is also detailed by the IEA, with average day-ahead prices increasing from between £35 and £58 per MWh for the period from 2015 to 2020, to £67/MWh to £226/MWh for April to December 2021.

The IEA’s findings support the Nuclear Industry Association’s own analysis of National Grid ESO data, which shows there was no improvement in year-on-year grid decarbonisation in 2021. There were also no coal-free burning months last year compared to three in 2020.

The IEA’s report is published on a day when Britain is once again relying on coal for its electricity needs with gas making up over 60% of the power mix, resulting in a carbon intensity close to 400g CO2/kWh.

The UK’s nuclear fleet remains the cheapest and most reliable source of clean power generation, although all but one of the existing stations is due to retire by 2028. According to the CCC, this will reduce the UK’s clean power capacity by 30%, without new investment.

In response to the IEA’s report, Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association said,

“The UK’s reliance on expensive imported gas means higher emissions, higher bills, and constant threats to our energy security.  The only way to protect our energy security, and guarantee an affordable and sustainable system, is to invest in new nuclear capacity, in both large and small-scale projects.”


Notes to Editors

  • The IEA’s full report can be accessed here: It says the 2021 rise in power sector CO2 emissions is the first increase since 2012.
  • The UNECE says nuclear has the lowest lifecycle carbon of all technologies and the lowest land use and lowest mining and metal use of all low carbon technologies.
  • The UK has six generating nuclear power stations, providing around 16% of the country’s electricity.
  • Nuclear has saved the UK 2.3 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, far more than any other source. The saving is equivalent to all UK emissions from 2015 through 2020.
  • Three stations will retire by March 2024, and all but one will retire by 2030.

About the Nuclear Industry Association
As the trade association for the civil nuclear industry in the UK, the Nuclear Industry Association represents more than 200 companies across the UK’s nuclear supply chain.

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