Electricity production by fuel (ENER 027) - Assessment published Apr 2012
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 2009, the share in total gross electricity production of the electricity generated from fossil fuels was 51.3 %, and the share of nuclear 27.5 %. The share of electricity generated from renewable sources is in rapid progression and reached 19.6% in 2009. The total electricity production in EU-27 increased by around 25 % between 1990 and 2009, thus offsetting some of the emissions reductions achieved due to fuel switching from solid fuels to natural gas and from the increase share of renewables. However, in 2009, the electricity production decreased significantly for the first time (-4.6% compared to 2008), because of the economic crisis. In non-EU EEA countries, electricity production increased by 2.7%/year since 2009, with a fall in 2009 (-3.3%), mainly driven by gas (+12.7%year) and coal (+5.3%/year).
Electricity production can have negative impacts on the environment and human health. The fuel mix used for in electricity production provides a broad indication of whether these effects are likely to diminish or will be enhanced. The type and the extent of pressures on the environment and human health stemming from electricity production depend upon the type and the amount of fuels used for electricity generation as well as the use of abatement technologies. See also ENER 02, ENER 18 and ENER 27
Gross electricity production by fuel, EU-27
Note: 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. ‘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 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. In 2009, the share of fossil fuels in electricity production was 51.3%, five points below the share observed in 1990 when fossil fuels accounted for 56.1 % . 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 (see ENER 02) 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 the early 2000s. The share of gas in electricity production increased from 8.5% in 1990 to 23.1% in 2009, contrary to the other energies for which the share is declining (coal from 39% in 1990 to 25.3% in 2009, oil from 8.5% in 1990 to 2.9% in 2009, nuclear from 30.5% in 1990 to 27.5% in 2009). The electricity production from renewable sources increased significantly since 1990 (+3.6 %/year) with an acceleration since 2005 (6%/year); the share of renewable in electricity production rose from 12.6% in 1990 to 19.6% in 2009.The electricity production from nuclear decreased since 2005 (2.7%/year); in 2009 the share of nuclear in electricity production at EU level reached 27.5%.
- As a result of these fuel shifts, in 2009, the average carbon intensity of the electricity production in EU-27 was around 375 gCO2 /kWh (ENER 02), 33% below the 1990 level.
- In non-EU EEA countries, electricity production increased by 2.7%/year since 2009, with a fall in 2009 (-3.3%). This production is mainly driven by gas (+12.7%year) and coal (+5.3%/year) since 1990. Renewable remain the main energy used for electricity production in non-EU EEA countries (share of 54.3% of the gross electricity production in 2009, 75% in 1990); the share of gas increased from 4.4% to 25.7% from 1990 to 2009, from 8.4% to 13.6% for coal. The share of oil and nuclear remained more stable (respectively 1.2% and 6.9% in 2009 and 1.8% and 9.8% in 1990).
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from renewable sources in Europe?
- The total volume of electricity produced from renewable sources in the EU-27 was 638 TWh 2009, representing an increase of 94 % compared to 1990 (the average annual growth rate was 3.6 %) (see Figure 1).The share of renewable electricity in total electricity production was 19.6% in 2009 in EU-27 (12.6% in 1990). . Sixty percent of this increase can be attributed to four countries with Germany clearly the largest contributor accounting for 26% of the absolute increase in the electricity production from renewable in the EU-27, followed by Spain (17%), Italy (12%) and United Kingdom (7%). Since 2005, electricity production from renewable picked up. This pace is also due to high increasing production in Germany (9.4%/year , share of 17% in EU electricity from renewable), in Spain (+13.3%/year, share of 12%), in Italy (7.4%/year, share of 12%), in France (+5%/year, share of 12%) but also in Estonia (+48.6%/year), in Cyprus (+41%), in Poland (+14%/year).
- In 2009, the electricity production decreased by 4.6%; renewable are the only source that continue to grow (+5.6%); electricity production from wind increased by 11.1%, from biomass by12.8% and solar by 89%.In non-EU EEA countries electricity production from renewable decreased by 0.5%/year since 2005 (+0.9%/year from 1990-2005) mainly due to a decrease in hydro electricity production (-1%/year since 2005).
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from natural gas in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from natural gas in EU-27 was 751 TWh representing a 238 % increase compared to 1990 (average growth of 6.6%/year). The share of natural gas in total electricity production increased from 8.5% in 1990 to 23.1% in 2009. In 2009 however, as a result of the economic crisis, the electricity produced from natural gas decreased by 7.1% compared to 2008
- 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 but also due to the availability of alternative routes via LNG that improved the security of supply. Because of this, significant investments were made in the transportation infrastructure for the delivery of gas from within and outside the EU-27. This rapid increased in gas demand also contributed to the increase in fossil fuels imports (see ENER12).
- For non-EU EEA countries, the share of natural gas in electricity production reached 25.7% in 2009 (2.6% in 1990). Electricity production from gas increased by 12.7%/year since 1990 (or 7.9%/year since 2005). Electricity from gas is mainly located in Turkey.
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from solid fuels in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from solid fuels decreased by 19% between 1990 and 2009, at an annual average rate of 1.1 %. This decrease mainly took place before 2000 due to the price differential with natural gas and more stringent environmental regulations. However the share of coal and lignite in electricity production decreased from 28.9% in 2005 to 25.3% in 2009. Over the period 2005-2009 the electricity production from solid fuels decreased by 3.9%/year, with a drop of 8.2% in 2009.
- In non-EU EEA countries electricity production from coal and lignite increased by 5.3%/year since 1990 (6.5%/year since 2005) reaching a share of 13.6% in 2009.
Specific policy question: What are the trends concerning the electricity production from nuclear power plants in Europe?
- The total electricity produced from nuclear amounted to 894 TWh in 2009, an increase of 12.5% compared to 1990 at an average annual rate of 0.6%/year. Electricity production from nuclear is decreasing since 2005 (- 2.7%/year between 2005 and 2009), mainly in Sweden (-7.9%/year) , UK (-4.1%/year), France (-2.4%/year) and Germany (-4.6%/year) with the shutdown of several nuclear reactors. As a result of these opposite trends, the electricity produced from nuclear was still 99 TWh higher in 2009 than in 1990 (+ 12 %).The share of electricity production from nuclear in gross electricity production declined from 29.8 % in 2005 to 27.5% in 2009.
- Until the accident of Fukushima, in early 2011, there was an increased interest towards building new nuclear power plants in countries like the UK, the Baltic States, 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). Following the Fukushima accident, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium announced plans to decommission all nuclear capacity by 2022 (Germany) and 2025 (Belgium on the condition that new alternatives for replacement are found by 2015).
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Eurostat - Statistical Office of the European Union (ESTAT)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnca-Diana Barbu
EEA Management Plan2011 2.8.1 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
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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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