What is it about?

Progress in reducing industrial energy demand and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is evaluated with a focus is on the situation in the United Kingdom (UK), although the lessons learned are applicable across much of the industrialized world. The UK industrial sector is complex, because it may be viewed as consisting of some 350 separate combinations of subsectors, devices and technologies. Various energy analysis and carbon accounting techniques applicable to industry are described and assessed. The contributions of the energy-intensive (EI) and nonenergy-intensive (NEI) industrial subsectors over recent decades are evaluated with the aid of decomposition analysis. An observed drop in aggregate energy intensity over this timescale was driven by different effects: energy efficiency improvements; structural change; and fuel switching. Finally, detailed case studies drawn from the Cement subsector and that associated with Food and Drink are examined; representing the EI and NEI subsectors, respectively. Currently available technologies will lead to further, short-term energy and CO2 emissions savings in manufacturing, but the prospects for the commercial exploitation of innovative technologies by mid-21st century are far more speculative. There are a number of nontechnological barriers to the take-up of such technologies going forward. Consequently, the transition pathways to a low carbon future in UK industry by 2050 will exhibit large uncertainties. The attainment of significant falls in carbon emissions over this period depends critically on the adoption of a limited number of key technologies [e.g., carbon capture and storage (CCS), energy efficiency techniques, and bioenergy], alongside a decarbonization of the electricity supply.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

The industrial sector accounted for almost one-third of world primary energy use and approximately 25% of world carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use and industrial processes in 2005. High growth in production and energy use have been seen in the emerging economies, such as India and China, with China being responsible for 80% of worldwide growth in industrial production over the past 25 years. In contrast, the UK has seen a reduction in industrial energy use whilst continuing to increase output in economic terms. It accounts for some 21% of total delivered energy and 29% of CO2 emissions. Industry is also very diverse in terms of manufacturing processes, ranging from highly energyintensive (EI) steel production and petrochemicals processing to low-energy electronics fabrication. The former typically employs large quantities of (often high-temperature) process energy, whereas the latter tends to be dominated by energy uses associated with space heating. Around 350 separate combinations of subsectors, devices and technologies can be identified; each combination offers quite different prospects for energy efficiency improvements and carbon reductions, which are strongly dependent on the specific technological applications.


It is widely recognized that data on industrial energy use and the potential for GHG emissions reduction are arguable weakest in respect to the various UK end-use demand sectors. Consequently, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) recently commissioned research aimed at providing better information in support of the industrial modelling needs of UK policy makers, including the potential impact of fuel switching, particularly to potentially low-carbon energy carriers, notably electricity, as well as the identification of difficult sectors/processes and areas where investment could be targeted most effectively. This has resulted in the development of an industrial ‘UED’ (which can be interrogated via the UKERC Energy Data Centre, in terms of the background documentation and spreadsheet data). Bottom–up studies were undertaken for ‘Iron & steel making', 'Chemicals processing,’ ‘Cement manufacture,’ the ‘Food & drink sector,’ and ‘Paper production.’ Together they account for about 65% of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) from UK industry.

Professor Emeritus Geoffrey P Hammond
University of Bath

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Industrial energy use and carbon emissions reduction: a UK perspective, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Energy and Environment, March 2016, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/wene.212.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page