EN18 Electricity Consumption
Assessment made on 01 Nov 2008
ClassificationEnergy (Primary theme)
- ENER 018
Policy issue: Is energy use decreasing?
Final electricity consumption is increasing rapidly in all economic sectors, at an average of around 1.7% per year from 1990-2005. This is the consequence of both the attractiveness of electricity as an energy carrier and continuing economic growth. Due to the high level of efficiency losses involved in both the production, particularly from conventional thermal and nuclear power, and transmission of electricity, the rise in electricity consumption is of particular concern for the environment.
Final electricity consumption grew across the EU-27 at an average annual rate of 1.7 % between 1990 and 2005 (an absolute increase of 28.7 %). This rate of increase was only slightly less than the average GDP growth rate over the same period, showing an apparent strong correlation between electricity consumption and economic growth. However, the increases in electricity consumption resulted not only from a growing economy, but also from an increasing share of electricity in final energy consumption, rising from 17.2 % in 1990 to 20.3 % in 2005. The attractiveness of electricity is due to its flexibility of use and the importance placed by consumers on the variety of energy services it provides. Furthermore, influenced by the liberalisation of the power market, electricity prices decreased considerably between 1990 and 2006 - although they have started to rise again in the last few years (see EN-31).
For the EU-27 as a whole, growth in electricity consumption was particularly strong in the service sector, followed by households. The main reasons for increased electricity consumption in the service sector were the sustained growth of this sector throughout the EU, the increased use of electrical appliances (such as air conditioning, lighting or IT equipment) and the advent of new electrical devices. In the household sector, rising incomes, higher living standards and the trend towards smaller households led to more and larger dwellings and a growing demand for electrical appliances. In 2005 total household final energy consumption was 799 TWh across a total of almost 200 million households in the EU-27.
There have been continued technical improvements in the efficiency of large electrical appliances; a decrease in average specific consumption of 1.5 % per year in the case of refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, TVs and dryers. However, these improvements have been offset by increases in the use, numbers and size of large appliances as well as a growing number of smaller appliances such as videos and computers (Enerdata et al, 2003).
In the industry sector electricity consumption grew between 1990 and 2005, but at a slower rate compared with the services and household sectors. Between 2004 and 2005 the electricity consumption of the industry sector showed a minimal growth of 0.01 %. Industry electricity consumption in the new Member States fell sharply during the early 1990s during the process of economic restructuring, although some growth has occurred more recently. This is reflected in the significant variation between the EU-27 member states, for example, the consumption in Ireland increased by 11.4 % whilst the consumption in Romania decreased by 6.2 % over the same period.
The transport sector is only responsible for around 2.7% of total electricity consumption in EU-27 and the increase in the 1990s can be attributed to growing consumption in the EU-15, due to increased electrification of Europe's railways (especially in France and the United Kingdom). The trend for the new Member States was opposite to that of EU-15, with a gradual decrease in electricity consumed for transport purposes due to lower usage of trains and other domestic public transport and an increase in car and air transport.
Most countries in EU-27 saw increased electricity consumption over the period from 1990 to 2005, except for Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. The growth rate of electricity consumption varied greatly by country, ranging from less than 1 % per year in the Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Hungary and Sweden to over 4 % in Malta, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus. The decrease or low growth in electricity consumption in the new Member States was as a result of economic restructuring in the1990s. Electricity consumption per capita also varies greatly between countries, with the lowest per capita consumption occurring in some new Member States of central and Eastern Europe and southern European countries (Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Portugal). Although the use of air conditioning in southern European countries contributes to a large increase in electricity consumption during the summer months, the highest consumption per capita was in the most northerly countries, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland, where electrical heating based on low cost electricity produced by hydropower meets a large part of the overall heating requirements.
The average electricity use per capita in the EU-27 is almost 2.5 times the global average and 3.5 times that for China. Only Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland are using more electricity per capita than in the United States. The rest of the EU-27 is well below the US.
Projections from POLES indicate an overall increase of electricity consumption for both the Baseline Scenario as well as the GHG Reduction Scenario. In comparison with the Baseline Scenario, the GHG Reduction Scenario projects a reduction of the electricity consumption in Households, Services, Agriculture and other sectors. The WEO 2007 projections show the same increase in electricity consumption but, with the exception of the Alternative Policy scenario, these are significantly lower than the POLES projections.
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