Electricity production by fuel
Fossil fuels and nuclear energy continue to dominate the fuel mix for electricity production in EU-27. In 2008, the share in total gross electricity production of the electricity generated from fossil fuels was 52.9 %, and the share of nuclear 27.3 %. The electricity generated from renewable sources was 18.0% (in 2008). The total electricity production increased significantly by 31.3 % since 1990, thus offsetting some of the emissions reductions achieved due to fuel switching from solid fuels to natural gas.
Is the electricity production becoming less carbon intensive in Europe?
Gross electricity production by fuel, EU-27
Note: The total volume of electricity produced from renewable sources increased by 288 TWh between 1990 and 2008: this represents an increase of 87.2 % (3.5 %/year on average). From 1990 to 2003, the share of renewable in the electricity production remained quite stable (13-14%); from 2003 to 2008 this share has increased from 13.9% to 18.4%. Most of this increase can be attributed to Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and Italy with a respective share of 17.7%, 13.3%, 13.1%, 11.1% and 10.7% in the EU-27 electricity production from renewable. From 2003 to 2008, electricity production from renewable has increased by 6.4% per year in the EU-27, with an annual growth rate of 15.1% for Denmark, 13.4% for Netherlands, 9.0%/year for Germany and 8.0%/year for Ireland from 1990. Substantial growth will be required to meet the indicative EU-27 target of a 20 % share of renewable in final energy consumption by 2020 (see also ENER030 and ENER029).
Eurostat 2010. Electricity production by fuel abd total gross electrcity generation - 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 53 % all the way from 1990 to 2008. Natural gas was the fuel of choice for new power plants since 1990, 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. The share of coal in electricity production has remained more or less constant between 1999 and 2007 (around 29-30%) and decreased to 26.3% in 2008. The use of coal has slightly decreased in the last year terms due to the overall decrease in electricity demand. Consequently, emissions from public power generation have begun to decline again (see ENER 01, 06, 07, 08 and 09).
- In 2008, the average carbon intensity of the
electricity production in EU-27 was around 400 gCO2 /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.
What are the trends concerning the electricity production from renewable sources in Europe?
The total volume of electricity produced from renewable sources increased by 288 TWh between 1990 and 2008: this represents an increase of 87.2 % (3.5 %/year on average) (see Figure 1). From 1990 to 2003, the share of renewable in the electricity production remained quite stable (13-14%); from 2003 to 2008 this share has increased from 13.9% to 18.4%. Most of this increase can be attributed to Germany, Sweden, France, Spain and Italy with a respective share of 17.7%, 13.3%, 13.1%, 11.1% and 10.7% in the EU-27 electricity production from renewable. From 2003 to 2008, electricity production from renewable has increased by 6.4% per year in the EU-27, with an annual growth rate of 15.1% for Denmark, 13.4% for Netherlands, 9.0%/year for Germany and 8.0%/year for Ireland from 1990. Substantial growth will be required to meet the indicative EU-27 target of a 20 % share of renewable in final energy consumption by 2020 (see also ENER030 and ENER029).
What are the trends concerning the electricity production from natural gas in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from natural gas increased by 592 TWh (274 %) between 1990 and 2008, at an annual average growth rate of 7.6 %. 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).
What are the trends concerning the electricity production from solid fuels in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from solid fuels decreased by 12.3% between 1990 and 2008, at an annual average rate of 0.7 %. This decrease mainly took place between 1990 and 1999 and in 2008. Indeed, the share of coal in electricity production remained more or less constant between 1999 and 2007 (around 29-30%) and decreases 8.6 % between 2007 and 2008 (See also ENER 12).
What are the trends concerning the electricity production from nuclear power plants in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from nuclear was 142 TWh higher in 2008 than in 1990 (17.9 %). It actually increased regularly until 2004 (+214 TWh or 27% between 1990 and 2004), mainly in France (about 60% of the total). Electricity production from nuclear is decreasing since 2004 (-71 TWh or -7.1% between 2004 and 2008), mainly in Sweden, UK and Germany with the shutdown of several nuclear reactors. 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, Slovenia and Romania (no data for Poland), Sweden, and Finland or extending the life times of existing NPP’s (for instance in France, the Netherlands) due to concerns over security of supply, high volatility of energy commodity prices and climate change (see also ENER 13).
Indicator specification and metadata
Total gross electricity generation covers gross electricity generation in all types of power plants. The gross electricity generation at the plant level is defined as the electricity measured at the outlet of the main transformers. i.e. the consumption of electricity in the plant auxiliaries and in transformers is included.
Electricity production by fuel is the gross electricity generation from plants utilising the following fuels: coal and lignite. oil. nuclear. natural and derived gas. renewables (wind. hydro. biomass and waste. solar PV and geothermal) and other fuels. The latter include electricity produced from power plants not accounted for elsewhere such as those fuelled by certain types of industrial wastes which are not classed as renewable. Other fuels also include the electricity produced as a result of pumping in hydro power stations.
The share of each fuel in electricity production is taken as the ratio of electricity production from the relevant category against total gross electricity generation. It should be noted that the share of renewable electricity in this indicator, based on production, is not directly comparable with the share required under Directive 2001/77/EC which is based upon the share of renewables in electricity consumption. The difference between both shares is accounted for by the net balance between imports and exports of electricity and by how much domestic electricity generation is increased or reduced as a result.
Electricity generation is measured in either GWh or TWh (1000 GWh)
Policy context and targets
The indicator shows the evolution of the shares of electricity production from different fuels in total gross electricity production and aims to indicate to what extent there has been a decarbonisation of the electricity production in Europe. Electricity production from fossil fuels (such as crude oil, oil products, hard coal, lignite and natural and derived gas) has a number of negative effects on the environment and human health , CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution levels (e.g. SO2 and NOX), water pollution and biodiversity loss. These effects are fuel-specific : for instance, natural gas, for instance, has approximately 40 % less carbon than coal per unit of energy content, and 25 % less carbon content than oil, and contains only marginal quantities of sulphur (see ENER26). There are other environmental pressures coming from energy production: air pollution, land –use changes and crop-escape (that could result in large scale introduction of invasive species) from biomass, surface and groundwater pollution, ecosystem services and biodiversity loss, etc. The pressure on the environment and human health from energy consumption can be diminished by decreasing energy consumption and switching to energy sources that have a lower impact on the environment and human health.
While nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution over the life cycle compared to conventional sources, there is a risk of accidental radioactive releases, and highly radioactive waste (for which no generally acceptable disposal route has yet been established) is accumulating.
The efficiency with which electricity is produced also determines the scale of the environmental impacts of electricity production and consumption (see ENER19), as it determines the amount of input fuel required to generate a given quantity of electricity.
The impact also depends upon the total amount of electricity demanded and hence the level of electricity production required (see ENER18 for more details on electricity consumption). Thus another way of reducing energy-related pressures on the environment includes using less electricity on the demand-side, through improved efficiency, conservation or a combination of the two.
A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final)
Presents a roadmap for action in line with a 80-95% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050.
Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final)
Presents the five priorities of the new energy strategy defined by the Commission.
Council adopted on 6 April 2009 the climate-energy legislative package containing measures to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. This package is designed to achieve the EU's overall environmental target of a 20 % reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 % share of renewable energy in the EU's total energy consumption by 2020.The climate action and renewable energy (CARE) package includes the following main policy documents:
- 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
- Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide
- Directive 2009/28/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
- Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
- Directive 2008/101/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
- Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles
Second Strategic Energy Review; COM(2008) 781 final
Strategic review on short, medium and long term targets on EU energy security.
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
Directive 2008/101/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
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.
Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.
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(2008) 781 final - Second Strategic Energy Review
COM(2010) 639 final: Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
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
REGULATION (EC) No 443/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 443/2009
Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
Methodology for indicator calculation
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
Share of electricity production by fuel calculated as ratio of electricity production by fuel type to total gross electricity generation.
The coding (used in the Eurostat database) for the gross electricity generation is :
Coal fired power stations:
- Anthracite : main electricity activity 22_108501, main activity CHP 22_108502, autoproducers electricity 22_108503, autoproducers CHP 22_108504
- Coking coal : main electricity activity 22_108511, main activity CHP 22_108512, autoproducers electricity 22_108513, autoproducers CHP 22_108514
- Bituminous : main electricity activity 22_108521, main activity CHP 22_108522, autoproducers electricity 22_108523, autoproducers CHP 22_108524
- Sub Bituminous : main electricity activity 22_108531, main activity CHP 22_108532, autoproducers electricity 22_108533, autoproducers CHP 22_108534
- Lignite/brown coal : main electricity activity 22_108541, main activity CHP 22_108542, autoproducers electricity 22_108543, autoproducers CHP 22_108544
- Peat : main electricity activity 22_108551, main activity CHP 22_108552, autoproducers electricity 22_108553, autoproducers CHP 22_108554
- Patent fuel : main electricity activity 22_108561, main activity CHP 22_108562, autoproducers electricity 22_108563, autoproducers CHP 22_108564
- Coke oven coke: main electricity activity 22_108571, main activity CHP 22_108572, autoproducers electricity 22_108573, autoproducers CHP 22_108574
- Gas coke : main electricity activity 22_108581, main activity CHP 22_108582, autoproducers electricity 22_108583, autoproducers CHP 22_108584
- Coal tar : main electricity activity 22_108591, main activity CHP 22_108592, autoproducers electricity 22_108593, autoproducers CHP 22_108594
- BKB/briquettes : main electricity activity 22_108601, main activity CHP 22_108602, autoproducers electricity 22_108603, autoproducers CHP 22_108604
Oil fired power stations:
- Crude oil : main electricity activity 22_108701, main activity CHP 22_108702, autoproducers electricity 22_108703, autoproducers CHP 22_108704
- NGL (Natural Gas Liquid) : main electricity activity 22_108711, main activity CHP 22_108712, autoproducers electricity 22_108713, autoproducers CHP 22_108714
- Refinery gas : main electricity activity 22_108721, main activity CHP 22_108722, autoproducers electricity 22_108723, autoproducers CHP 22_108724
- LPG : main electricity activity 22_108731, main activity CHP 22_108732, autoproducers electricity 22_108733, autoproducers CHP 22_108734
- Naphta: main electricity activity 22_108741, main activity CHP 22_108742, autoproducers electricity 22_108743, autoproducers CHP 22_108744
- Kerozene type jet fuel: main electricity activity 22_108751, main activity CHP 22_108752, autoproducers electricity 22_108753, autoproducers CHP 22_108754
- Other Kerozene: main electricity activity 22_108761, main activity CHP 22_108762, autoproducers electricity 22_108763, autoproducers CHP 22_108764
- Gas/diesel oil: main electricity activity 22_108771, main activity CHP 22_108772, autoproducers electricity 22_108773, autoproducers CHP 22_108774
- Residual fuel oil: main electricity activity 22_108781, main activity CHP 22_108782, autoproducers electricity 22_108783, autoproducers CHP 22_108784
- Bitumen: main electricity activity 22_108791, main activity CHP 22_108792, autoproducers electricity 22_108793, autoproducers CHP 22_108794
- Petroleum coke: main electricity activity 22_108801, main activity CHP 22_108802, autoproducers electricity 22_108803, autoproducers CHP 22_108804
- Other oil products: main electricity activity 22_108811, main activity CHP 22_108812, autoproducers electricity 22_108813, autoproducers CHP 22_108814
Natural gas fired power stations:
- main electricity activity 22_108891, main activity CHP 22_108892, autoproducers electricity 22_108893, autoproducers CHP 22_108894
Derived gas fired power stations
- Gas works gas : main electricity activity 22_108611, main activity CHP 22_108612, autoproducers electricity 22_108613, autoproducers CHP 22_108614
- Coke oven gas : main electricity activity 22_1086211, main activity CHP 22_108622, autoproducers electricity 22_108623, autoproducers CHP 22_108624
- Blast furnace gas : main electricity activity 22_108631, main activity CHP 22_108632, autoproducers electricity 22_108633, autoproducers CHP 22_108634
- Oxygen steel furnace gas : main electricity activity 22_108641, main activity CHP 22_108642, autoproducers electricity 22_108643, autoproducers CHP 22_108644
Biomass fired power stations
- Industrial wastes : main electricity activity 22_108901, main activity CHP 22_108902, autoproducers electricity 22_108903, autoproducers CHP 22_108904
- Municipal wastes (renewable): main electricity activity 22_108911, main activity CHP 22_108912, autoproducers electricity 22_108913, autoproducers CHP 22_108914
- Municipal wastes (non-renewable): main electricity activity 22_108921, main activity CHP 22_108922, autoproducers electricity 22_108923, autoproducers CHP 22_108924
- Wood, wood wastes and other solid fuels: main electricity activity 22_108931, main activity CHP 22_108932, autoproducers electricity 22_1089313, autoproducers CHP 22_108934
- Landfill gas: main electricity activity 22_108941, main activity CHP 22_108942, autoproducers electricity 22_1089343, autoproducers CHP 22_108944
- Sludge gas: main electricity activity 22_108951, main activity CHP 22_108952, autoproducers electricity 22_1089353, autoproducers CHP 22_108954
- Other biogas: main electricity activity 22_108961, main activity CHP 22_108962, autoproducers electricity 22_1089363, autoproducers CHP 22_108964
- Other liquid biofuels: main electricity activity 22_108971, main activity CHP 22_108972, autoproducers electricity 22_1089373, autoproducers CHP 22_108974
- Main electricity from photovoltaic 14_1070421, main solar thermal 14_1070422, autoproducers solar 14_1070423
- Main electricity from pumped hydro 15_107036, autoproducers pumped hydro 14_107037
- Main electricity activity 15_107030, main activity CHP 15_107031, autoproducers electricity 15_107032, autoproducers CHP 15_107033
It should be noted that in the Eurostat database ‘Other fuels – 107012’ also includes ‘gross production from photovoltaic systems - 107023’ and although almost negligible in overall terms it has been subtracted from 107012 in the calculation of the indicator.
For the denominator, where required: total gross electricity generation 107000
The Agency had 32 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 27 European Union Member States and Turkey plus the EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway). Liechtenstein and Iceland are not anymore covered separately by Eurostat
Methodology and frequency of data collection:
Data collected annually.Eurostat definitions and concepts for energy statistics http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/en/nrg_quant_esms.htm
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.
No methodology references available.
Biomass and wastes, as defined by Eurostat, cover organic, non-fossil material of biological origin, which may be used for heat production or electricity generation. They comprise wood and wood waste, Biogas, municipal solid waste (MSW) and biofuels. MSW comprises biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes produced by different sectors. Non-biodegradable municipal and solid wastes are not considered to be renewable, but current data availability does not allow the non-biodegradable content of wastes to be identified separately, except for that from industry.
Also, electricity data (unlike that for overall energy consumption) for 1990 refers to the western part of Germany only.
Electricity consumption within the national territory includes imports of electricity from neighbouring countries. It also excludes the electricity produced nationally but exported abroad. In some countries the contribution of electricity trade to total electricity consumption and the changes observed from year to year need to be looked at carefully when analysing trends in electricity production by fuel. Impacts on the (national) environment are also affected since emissions are accounted where the electricity is produced whereas consumption is accounted where the electricity is consumed
Data sets uncertainty
Data has 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. Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/en/nrg_quant_esms.htm
No uncertainty has been specified
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- ENER 027
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnca-Diana Barbu
EEA Management Plan2010 2.8.1 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
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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