Electricity production by fuel (ENER 027) - Assessment published Sep 2010
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- ENER 027
Key policy question: Is the electricity production becoming less carbon intensive in Europe?
Fossil fuels and nuclear energy continue to dominate the fuel mix for electricity production in EU-27. In 2007, the share in total gross electricity production of the electricity generated from fossil fuels was 55.4 %, and of the electricity generated from nuclear was 27.9 %. By comparison, the electricity generated from renewable sources was 15.7% (in 2007). The total electricity production increased significantly by 35.0 % since 1990, thus offsetting some of the emissions reductions achieved due to fuel switching from solid fuels to natural gas.
Gross electricity production by fuel, EU-27
Note: Gross electricity production by fuel, EU-27 Data shown are for gross electricity production and include electricity production from both public plants and auto-producers. Renewables include electricity produced from hydro (excluding pumping), biomass, municipal waste, geothermal, wind and solar PV. The share of renewables presented in the chart is that for production and hence does not correspond to the share, for consumption, as required by Directive 2001/77/EC. The difference between both shares is accounted for by the net balance between imports and exports of electricity. The EU-27 value for 1990 includes (former) West Germany only and since 1991 it refers to Germany. ‘Other fuels’ include electricity produced from power plants not accounted for elsewhere, such as those fuelled by certain types of industrial wastes. It also includes the electricity generated as a result of pumping in hydro-power stations.
Eurostat. Energy statistics: Supply, transformation, consumption - electricity - annual data. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/energy/data/database
- Electricity production from fossil fuels continues to dominate total gross electricity production in EU-27, with an almost constant share of 55 % all the way from 1990 to 2007. Natural gas was the fuel of choice for new power plants between 1990-2007, choice mainly driven by economic considerations (more advantageous gas prices compared to coal) and environmental concerns. This fuel switching led to a decrease in greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions from public power generation but increased the dependency on imported fuels (see ENER12). However, with an increase in natural gas prices relative to coal since 1999 (IEA, 2005) as well as a decrease in hydro electricity production since 2002 due to decreased rainfall, the use of coal in power generation has increased in recent years. Although the share of coal in electricity production has remained more or less constant since 1999, its use has increased in absolute terms due to the overall increase in electricity demand. Consequently, emissions from public power generation have begun to rise again (see ENER 01, 06, 07, 08 and 09)
- In 2007, the average carbon intensity of the electricity production in EU-27 was 392 grCO2 /kWh.
 Forthcoming EEA indicator. The main sources of data are Eurostat’s energy balances and the EU greenhouse gas inventory to the UNFCCC. Autoproducers are not considered in this methodology because CO2 from autoproducers are reported in the respective sector so the associated electricity production had to be excluded from the calculation. Import/exports of electricity also are excluded in this methodology because CO2 emissions from stationary sources are based on the territorial definition used for UNFCCC reporting.
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from renewable sources in Europe?
The total electricity produced from renewable sources increased by 67.8 % between 1990 and 2007, at an annual average growth rate of 3.1 %. The absolute growth of electricity production from renewable sources between 1990 and 2007 was 212 TWh (see Figure 1). However, 1 percentage point of this increase was observed from 2006-2007 alone, which could be largely attributed to increased renewable electricity production in Germany (+26.5 %) and Spain (+13.5 %). Substantial growth will be required to meet the indicative EU-27 target of a 20 % share of renewable electricity in final electricity consumption by 2020 (see also ENER 30 and ENER 29).
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from natural gas in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from natural gas increased by 252.1 % between 1990 and 2007, at an annual average growth rate of 7.7 %. The absolute growth of electricity production from natural gas between 1990 and 2007 was 544 TWh. The primary motive for the switch to gas was economic, with low gas prices for much of the 1990s compared to coal and stricter environmental legislation. Because of this, significant investments were made in the transportation infrastructure for the delivery of gas from within and outside the EU-27 (see Figure 2). This rapid increased in gas demand also contributed to the increase in fossil fuels imports (see ENER12).
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from solid fuels in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from solid fuels increased by 6.5 % between 1990 and 2007, at an annual average rate of 0.4 %. The absolute growth of electricity production from solid fuels between 1990 and 2007 was 61 TWh (see Figure 2) The electricity production from coal and lignite picked up in recent years due to narrowing of the price differential between solid fuels and natural gas and security of supply reasons (see also ENER 12).
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from nuclear power plants in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from nuclear increased by 17.7 % between 1990 and 2007, at an annual average rate of 1.0 %. The absolute growth of electricity production from nuclear between 1990 and 2007 was 140 TWh. The share of electricity production from nuclear in gross electricity production declined in recent years due to the fact that few additional nuclear plants have been built. However, in recent years an increased interest towards building new nuclear power plants (or extending existing ones) can be observed in countries like the UK, the Baltic States, Poland, Sweden, and Finland or extending the life times of existing NPP’s (for instance in the Netherlands) due to concerns over security of supply, high volatility of energy commodity prices and climate change (see also ENER 13).
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
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EEA Management Plan2009 2.9.1 (note: EEA internal system)
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This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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