Where does British Gas energy come from?

Coal is out and renewables are in. So if you've ever wondered exactly how the lights stay on and our homes keep warm, you're about to discover the answer.

Turning natural resources into energy

Energy production is the story of how we turn natural resources into the power behind our creature comforts.

Do you know where your energy comes from? Our video tells you how energy gets into your home. And all in less than a minute.

Our energy mix

Check out the table 1 below and you’ll see that 76% of our electricity comes from renewable sources – way above the UK suppliers’ average of 38%.

Discover more about renewable energy and how it reduces your carbon footprint.

Energy source British Gas UK average
Coal 0% 4%
Natural gas 0% 39%
Nuclear 24% 17%
Renewables 76% 38%
Other fuels 0% 2%
CO2 emissions 0 g/kWh 205 g/kWh
High-level radioactive waste 0,0017 g/kWh 0,0012 g/kWh

We supply gas and electricity to over 11.6 million homes in the UK 2

Here’s where it comes from:

The UK

Natural gas from the North Sea and the East Irish Sea makes up 44% of the UK’s gas production. It’s piped from sea platforms to refineries on land.

Europe and beyond

47% of our country’s gas is pumped in across the European continent through long-distance pipelines. Over half comes from Norway and Russia.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

9% of the UK’s gas is imported as liquefied natural gas, which is transported around the world in specialist tankers at temperatures of below -160°C.

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What is natural gas?

Natural gas is mostly methane – formed deep beneath the earth’s surface. It’s created by intense heat and pressure, over millions of years, acting on layers of decomposing plant and animal material.

How is natural gas extracted?

Natural gas is extracted from the earth by drilling wells. If the gas is below the seabed – like in the North Sea – a gas platform is built in the ocean.

What does refining do?

After being extracted, gas is piped to refineries on land. Then they purify the gas by separating the methane from propane and butane.

The gas is then stored in tanks before being pumped into the country’s distribution network, and entering your home through a meter.

Why does natural gas smell bad?

The truth is that natural gas has no scent at all. That ‘eggy’ odour is actually added to help us all smell gas leaks and stay safe.

What is liquefied natural gas?

Liquefied natural gas (often known as LNG) is created by cooling down gas to temperatures below -160°C so that it becomes a liquid.

It’s a bit like steam turning into liquid water as it cools. But the temperatures involved are many times lower for gas.

Liquids are easier to transport

Liquefied natural gas takes up six hundred times less space than natural gas. So it can be transported in large quantities by specialist ships.

The global fleet of LNG tankers was about 550 vessels at the end of 2018.

Sources of electricity

Almost all electricity is made by spinning turbines connected to generators – which then produce an electric current.

How to power the turbines?

Many different methods are possible, from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, through to renewables like wind, solar and wave energy.

Green energy is the future

We’re always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint as a business. So we’re constantly working to make renewable energy a bigger part of our mix.

How is electricity generated by coal?

Finely powdered coal is blown into the combustion chamber of a boiler where it’s burnt at a high temperature, producing hot gases and heat energy. These turn water into steam which then drives turbines.

Phasing out coal

Coal use is dropping every year. We now have only eight coal power stations left in the UK. And by 2025 we’ll phase it out completely as part of our drive to reduce carbon emissions.

Where we get our coal

Less than half the coal we use is mined in the UK. The rest is imported from Russia, the USA, Australia and Colombia, with just a little from the European Union.

How is electricity generated by gas?

Gas is turned into electricity in specialist power stations called Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants. Heat from the burning gas turns water into steam to drive turbines which generate an electric current.

Gas is extremely efficient – and clean

In fact, gas power plants produce more electricity per unit of fuel than any other fossil fuel technology. And they only emit half the carbon dioxide of coal. So it’s a much cleaner energy source.

The UK’s first CCGT was commissioned in 1991. Since then the number of plants and the amount of electricity generated from gas has kept growing.

How is electricity generated by nuclear energy?

In nuclear power plants energy is produced by splitting uranium atoms – a process called fission. This releases large amounts of heat which produces steam and drives a turbine generator.

Why nuclear energy is green

Electricity from nuclear power is considered green because no fossil fuels are burnt and no greenhouse gases are released.

The UK has 15 nuclear power stations generating about a fifth of the country’s electricity. But almost half of these will close by 2025. The government is planning new nuclear plants in the coming years.

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Want to know more?

Renewable energy

By investing in wind farms, solar and green gas, we’re helping customers reduce their home’s CO2 emissions.

Learn about renewables

Energy saving tips

Reduce your bill and your carbon footprint – try our energy saving tips.

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Your energy bill

Understand what all the information on your energy bill means.

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Additional information

  1. Table figures cover period between 1st April 2019 to the 31st March 2020.

  2. Figures based on June 2020.