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A Thousand Years of Energy Use in the United Kingdom

Abstract:
This paper examines the evolution of energy use and its influences in the United Kingdom over the very long run by combining economic literature and statistical information. The paper argues that the provision of energy services, mainly heat and power, is bound by the tensions between a changing growth rate and structure of economic activity and the constraints of energetic resources. After periods of tension, energy price differentials, as well as the diffusion of technological innovation and the development of new fuels, led to new mixes of energy sources to supply heat and power. This paper identifies three major changes that characterise the history of UK energy use: first, the dramatic increase in per capita energy use; second, the shift in methods of supplying energy services, from biomass sources to fossil fuels, from coal to petroleum to natural gas, and from raw forms to more value-added energy sources; and, third, the replacing of direct methods of generating power, from animate sources, wind and water, by the use of mechanical and electrical methods, which have so far depended mainly on fossil fuels. These changes were instrumental in influencing the relationship between GDP and energy use, and also the levels of environmentalpollution.

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Energy Specializations: Electricity – Markets and Prices ; Energy and the Economy – Energy as a Productive Input; Energy and the Economy –Economic Growth and Energy Demand; Energy and the Economy – Resource Endowments and Economic Performance; Energy and the Economy – Energy Shocks and Business Cycles; Energy and the Economy –Economic Growth and Energy Demand; Energy and the Economy – Resource Endowments and Economic Performance

JEL Codes:
D42 - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design: Monopoly
O13 - Economic Development: Agriculture; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Other Primary Products
Q34 - Natural Resources and Domestic and International Conflicts
F44 - International Business Cycles

Keywords: Energy use, UK, GDP, economic history, economic development, technology diffusion, pollution

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol19-No4-1


Published in Volume19, Number 4 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.