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CO2 intensity of electricity and heat generation

Indicator Specification Created 14 Mar 2012 Published 30 Apr 2012 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
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Indicator codes: ENER 002

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
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Justification for indicator selection

The EU’s current energy system remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Nearly 80 % of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-27 are caused by energy production (i.e. electricity and heat, refining), energy use by the industry, services and households, and transport. Carbon dioxide emissions, while not the most potent greenhouse gas, account for a significant share of the greenhouse gas effect. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions of the electricity and heat generation remains an important objective for climate change mitigation efforts.

This indicator is closely linked with ENER 30

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

Annual emissions of CO2 in UNFCCC reporting format (In Mt = million tonnes).

For CO2 only, the (national) totals do not include emissions from biomass burning or emissions or removals from land-use change and forestry (LULUCF – CFR 5). The energy sector (CFR 1) is responsible for energy-related emissions, such as those arising from fuel combustion activities and fugitive emissions from fuels. Fuel combustion activities include: energy industries, manufacturing industries and construction, transport, other sectors and other stationary or mobile emissions from fuel combustion. Fugitive emissions from fuels include: solid fuels and oil and natural gas.


Emission of pollutants:  Mtonnes, carbon intensity in g/kWh

Policy context and targets

Context description

Emissions of CO2 from fossil combustion in electricity and heat production contribute significantly to total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. The indicator estimates to what extent changes in efficiency, fuel mix and pollution abatement have influenced the CO2 intensity of electricity and heat production.

The trends evident in this factsheet, together with projections in other factsheets (e.g. see EN01), indicate that additional policy measures will need to be implemented in order to meet the EU’s longer-term emissions reduction targets, particularly for CO2. In addition to the EU’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (of which CO2 is the main gas) under the Kyoto Protocol, In March 2007, the Council of the European Union decided that EU would make a firm independent commitment to achieving at least a 20 % reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990. It also endorsed an EU objective of a 30 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions. This was further strengthen in the The EU climate and energy package (E&E), setting a 20 % reduction in GHG, 20% reduction in energy consumption and 20% reduction in primary energy use (knows as the "20-20-20" targets) be reached by 2020. The E&E primarily focuses on energy efficiency and includes the Effort Sharing decision targets as well as more stringent renewable targets. With the ‘Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy in 2050’ the European commission is looking beyond the 2020 targets with the aim of keeping global warming below the 2 degree threshold limit. Transport will play an important role in the move to a low carbon economy. The recently published White paper sets out over 60 measure to move towards a sustainable transport across Europe. 

The total emissions of CO2 from electricity and heat production depend on both the amount of electricity and heat produced as well as the CO2 intensity per unit produced (which are also fuel specific). Therefore the policies and measures to reduce emissions need to address both demand (e.g. through improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances) to stem the rapid increase in electricity and heat production, as well as CO2 intensity per unit of electricity and heat produced (e.g. by fuel switching, generation efficiency).

A number of EU policies have contributed to efforts to curb total electricity and heat produced and CO2 intensity per unit produced. For example, the Directives establishing rules for the common market for electricity (2003/54/EC) and gas (2003/55/EC) have encouraged switching to cheaper and more efficient technologies, in particular to gas. The market liberalisation and competition resulting from these Directives also contributed to cheaper energy prices in the 1990s which may have encouraged energy consumption. However the steep increases in energy prices since 2000 and particularly after 2004, may help to constrain energy demand.

Another important policy is the EU ETS which sets a cap on overall emissions of GHG from the industrial sector (factories, power plants and other installations in the system). The Effort sharing decision is now being added to regulated sectors outside the EU ETS to ensure all sources are captured and controlled through emission targets.

The integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) Directive (96/61/EC) requires plants of less than 20MW to meet a set of basic energy efficiency provisions. For larger plants energy efficiency is covered by the plants’ participation within the EU greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme established by Directive 2003/87/EC. Under the Directive, each Member State was required to draw up a National Allocation Plan that included caps on CO2 emissions from all thermal electricity generating plant greater than 20 MW. A shift to less carbon intensive fuels for electricity generation, such as gas, and improvements in efficiency are important options to help generators meet their requirements under the directive.

The EC’s Green Paper on Energy Efficiency (COM(2005)265 final) highlighted opportunities to improve the efficiency of electricity and heat production by ensuring that: the most efficient CCGT technology is used; research is expanded to improve the efficiency of coal generation; the use of distributed generation is expanded particularly to make greater use of waste heat, and that in combination with this a greater use of combined heat and power (cogeneration) technology is realised. The Green Paper identified that 20% of EU energy use could be saved. The EC’s  Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (COM(2006) 545 final) moved towards realising these savings and includes initiatives to make energy appliances, buildings, transport and energy generation more efficient, and introduces stringent new energy efficiency standards and financing mechanisms to support more energy efficient products. The EC also created a Covenant of Mayors of the 20 to 30 most pioneering cities in Europe and an international agreement on energy efficiency.


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

  • 2003/54/EC
    Directives concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity
  • 2003/55/EC
    Directives concerning common rules for the internal market in gas
  • 2009/29/ec
    Directive 2009/29/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community.
  • Climate and Energy package 2009
  • COM (2011) 112 - A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050
    With its "Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050" the European Commission is looking beyond these 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century as agreed by European Heads of State and governments. It shows how the sectors responsible for Europe's emissions - power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture - can make the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades.
  • COM(2005) 265 final. Green paper on energy efficiency or doing more with less. European Commission.
  • COM(2006) 545
    Action Plan for Energy Efficiency
  • Council Directive 96/61/EC (IPPC)
    Council Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September 1996 concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). Official Journal L 257.
  • DIRECTIVE 2001/77/EC Renewable electricity
    Directive 2001/77/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2001 on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market
  • DIRECTIVE 2003/87/EC
    The Directive establish a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amends Council Directive 96/61/EC
  • DIRECTIVE 2005/32/EC
    The Directive establises a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products and amends Council Directive 92/42/EEC and Directives 96/57/EC and 2000/55/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
  • DIRECTIVE 2006/32/EC
    The directive is relatefd to energy end-use efficiency and energy services and repeals Council Directive 93/76/EEC
  • DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC
  • WHITE PAPER European transport policy for 2010: time to decide
    The need for integration of transport in sustainable development


Methodology for indicator calculation

CO2 emissions data are annual official data submissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and EU Monitoring mechanism. Combination of emission estimates based on volume of activities and emission factors. Recommended methodologies for emission data collection are compiled in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC, 2006). supplemented by the Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC, 2000) and UNFCCC Guidelines (UNFCCC, 2000).

Energy data collected annually by Eurostat.

Eurostat definitions for energy statistics

 Eurostat metadata for energy statistics

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Energy data have been traditionally compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, shared by Eurostat and the International Energy Agency, following a well-established and harmonised methodology. However a certain level of uncertainty added due to the fact that for EU-27 countries sometimes reported differently than in joint questionnaires (e.g. CHP, municipal waste, etc) to comply with the new energy regulation.

Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics.

Emissions: Officially reported data following agreed procedures. E.g. CO2 data are based upon annual submissions under the UNFCCC.

Data sets uncertainty

For energy related greenhouse gas emissions the results suggest uncertainties between ± 1 % (stationary combustion) and ± 11 % (fugitive emissions). For public electricity and heat production specifically, which is the focus of the indicator, the uncertainty is estimated to be ± 3 %. For the new Member States and some other EEA countries, uncertainties are assumed to be higher than for the EU-15 Member States because of data gaps.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
ENER 002
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Energy Energy


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DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Data used

Relevant policy documents

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100