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Why does it matter to save energy?

UK greenhouse emissions fall in 2015 ... but residential sector on the rise again

Terraced housingGreenhouse gas emissions from UK domestic properties are projected to rise by 10% by 2035, according to government figures released in March 2017.

Estimates for the UK's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2015 show a fall of 4% to 496 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) compared to 2014, according to the latest government figures published in March 2017. This was due mainly to a reduction in coal usage in power stations by the energy supply sector, which accounts for 29% of all GHG emissions. However, emissions from the residential sector bucked the trend, showing a 4% rise year on year. Transport also showed an increase, with emissions rising by 2%; it remains the second biggest source of GHGs, accounting for 24% of all emissions. The waste management and business sectors both cut their GHG outputs, by 7% and 3% respectively.

Projections and carbon budgets

The 2015 data represent a fall of 38% in total GHG emissions from 1990 levels, including a 32% cut in carbon dioxide. They mean that the UK is on track to meet its second Carbon Budget, set at 2782 MtCO2e for the period 2013-17. According to the 'Updated Energy and Emissions Projections 2016' released by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in March 2017, by 2020 GHG emissions are projected to be 48% lower than 1990 levels. It is predicted that on current trends the UK will meet the third Carbon Budget (2018-22) but fail to meet the fourth (2023-27) and fifth budgets (2028-32).

Future trends for domestic sector

The domestic residential sector was responsible for 13% of total GHG emissions in 2015 (or 23% of 'non-traded' emissions, which excludes power generation and large industrial plants). These emissions are projected to rise by 10% by 2035, due to steadily increasing energy demand, and represent 28% of total non-traded emissions. This compares with a 17% fall in emissions from homes over the period 1990-2015.

So why this rising trend? In the short term this assumes that gas and electricity prices remain relatively low, hence driving demand; thereafter it is thought that rising household incomes will bolster the trend for increased energy consumption in households. This reinforces the need for domestic energy efficiency measures in existing properties, and higher standards applied to new homes.

A summary of the 2015 GHG emissions can be found on the GOV.UK website, where you can also find the Updated Energy and Emissions Projections 2016.