Natural England - Energy


Energy, in the form of electricity, heat and transport fuel, is used in almost every part of our lives. Global energy demand is increasing, with future growth particularly expected to come from today's developing countries where we see GDP growth, energy-intensive industrialisation and rapid population growth. This is putting increased pressure on dwindling fossil fuel resources, such as oil and gas. It is also causing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to climate change.

Wind turbines in Cornwall by Ennor

Energy generation and the natural environment

Maintaining reliable and affordable energy supplies is essential to our modern lifestyle. Climate change creates the imperative to develop clean energy supplies to reduce the long term impact on the natural environment.

Different energy developments have different impacts on the natural environment. These impacts vary in terms of their significance and reversibility according to the energy generation technology, their scale and location.

Natural England is working with the energy industry to identify areas where energy development minimises irreversible or unacceptable effects on the natural environment.

Conventional energy generation and the future energy challenges

In 2006, the UK energy supply came from:

  • fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, including imports (90 per cent)
  • nuclear generation (8 per cent), and
  • renewable sources (less than 5 per cent).

Energy use is split roughly equally between the domestic, commercial and transport sectors.

By 2020, we will see a different picture. To meet EU targets, renewable energy must provide at least 15 per cent of our energy needs. Beyond 2020, nuclear power, renewable technologies and clean coal are likely to be the largest contributors to the UK’s energy mix.

The Government has two long-term challenges for energy:

  • reducing carbon dioxide emissions
  • ensuring the security of energy supply as the UK becomes increasingly dependent on imported fuel.

Implementing energy efficiency measures within all aspects of the UK’s energy generation and infrastructure has become a top priority for the UK Government.

  • Renewable energy

    Renewable energy is the term used to describe energy flows that occur naturally and continuously in the environment, such as energy from crops, the sun, wind or waves, and is essentially inexhaustible. Extracting this energy as effectively as possible and converting it into electricity, heat or transport fuels are the key challenges facing the renewable energy sector.


  • Fossil fuels

    Although domestic oil and gas resources are dwindling, the UK is increasing its imports in these areas. However, global oil and gas resources are also declining, and as they do so, prices will increase. For fuel security reasons, the UK Government’s vision is to be independent from relying on these fuels in the medium to longer term.


  • Nuclear energy

    The Government is committed to nuclear energy for the foreseeable future. The current nuclear power stations are beginning to reach the end of their lives and will need to be replaced by new facilities.