Energy efficiency in transformation (ENER 011) - Assessment published Sep 2010
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
- ENER 011
Key policy question: Are energy losses in transformation and distribution declining in Europe?
In 2007 only 70.4 % of the total primary energy consumption in the EU reached the end users. Transformation and distribution losses have increased slightly since1990, from 29.1 % in 1990 to 29.6 % in 2007. About 5 % represented the energy-sector's own consumption of energy. An increase of the conversion efficiency in power plants has been compensated by a sharp growth in electricity consumption.
Structure of the efficiency of transformation and distribution of energy from primary energy consumption to final energy consumption, EU-27, 2007
Note: Structure of the efficiency of transformation and distribution of energy from primary energy consumption to final energy consumption, EU-27, 2007
Eurostat. Energy statistics: Supply, transformation, consumption - all products - annual data. Webpage: http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=nrg_100a&lang=en
Energy losses and energy availability for end users in 2007 (% of primary energy consumption)
Note: Energy losses and energy availability for end users in 2007 (% of primary energy consumption)
Eurostat. Energy statistics: Supply, transformation, consumption - all products - annual data. Webpage:
- Between 1990 and 2007 energy losses in transformation and distribution increased from 29.1% in 1990 to 29.6% in 2007. Although the energy-efficiency of power and heat generation in public conventional power plants (including district heating) , increased from 43.0% in 1990 to 47.8% in the EU-27 in 2007 (see ENER19), the losses in energy supply slightly increased because the share of electricity consumption in total final energy consumption increased by 41%, from 17% in 1990 to 24% in 2007 (see ENER18). In 2007, about 80% of the losses in the energy supply sector in EU27 are a result of power generation and distribution. An increased share of electricity consumption thereby has a large impact on energy losses in the energy supply sector.
- Transformation losses represented 22.9% of EU-27 primary energy consumption in 2007 (see Figure 1). In addition to direct generation efficiency, these losses also depend on the fuel mix (e.g. direct production of electricity from renewables, excluding biomass and municipal waste , is not subject to transformation losses in the same way as fossil fuels are), the level of electricity imports and the share of nuclear power (see also ENER 13).
- Around 1.5 % of primary energy is lost in distribution. This is a slight increase in comparison to 1990, where distribution losses were equal to 1.3%. Distribution losses include losses in gas and heat distribution, in electricity transmission and distribution, and in coal transport.
- In 2007, the energy supply sector itself consumed 5.3% of primary energy as part of its internal operations. This is again a slight increase in comparison to 1990, where losses in the energy supply sector were equal to 5.0%. In addition, around 6.3% of primary energy products (in particular oil) are used directly as feedstocks (primarily in the petrochemical sector) rather than for energy purposes.
- The efficiency of the energy system (the ratio of final energy consumption to primary energy available for end-users) varies considerably across Member States as shown in Figure 2. Losses in transformation and distribution range from 5.7% for Luxembourg to 53.1% for Malta. The low level of losses in Luxembourg reflects a significant degree of electricity imports from other countries (which means that the transformation losses involved in its production are not counted in the country of final use) as well as the fact that a significant amount of electricity (over 76%) comes from high efficiency gas-fired power plants with the remaining demand covered from hydro and other renewables. In Malta on the other hand, the main technologies used for power generation are low efficiency, small-scale oil-fired internal combustion engines and steam turbines which explains why more than 50% of the primary energy is lost. In Norway, in 2007, 98% of the electricity was generated by hydropower. In Eurostat statistics the conversion efficiency used for hydropower is 100% which explains the high efficiency for Norway.
- Losses from distribution are, on average, the smallest overall, but still subject to sizeable variation between Member States (from 0.2% of primary energy supply for Luxembourg to 4.2% for Romania). Countries with a high amount of district heating tend to have higher overall distribution losses. This is because losses in heat distribution networks can be sizeable (in the order of 5%-25%). Network (i.e. distribution) losses primarily depend on factors such as network design, operation and maintenance, but also on population density of the country. Systems are more efficient when power lines to large consumers are as direct as possible and reduce the number of transformation steps (as these can account for almost half of network losses - Leonardo Energy, 2008). Increasing use of distributed generation may be one way to reduce such losses.
Specific policy question: How much can increased efficiency in transformation help reduce CO2 emissions in Europe?
Structure of CO2 emissions from thermal power plants in EU-27, 2007
Note: Structure of CO2 emissions from thermal power plants in EU-27, 2007
EEA, Data on greenhouse gas emissions and removals, sent by countries to UNFCCC and the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism (EU Member States).
CO2 emission savings per year for EU-27 at different transformation efficiencies compared to current 2007 efficiency
Note: CO2 emission savings per year for EU-27 at different transformation efficiencies compared to current 2007 efficiency
EEA, Data on greenhouse gas emissions and removals, sent by countries to UNFCCC and the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism (EU Member States)
- Figure 3 highlights the environmental link between fuel use and CO2 emissions from public conventional thermal power plants (including district heating) in the EU-27. Moving clockwise from top-left to the bottom-left, it illustrates the share of fuel inputs (dominated primarily by coal) in EU power plants in 2007, the implied average emissions factor for each fuel type, and the average thermal plant efficiency (currently 47.8% if district heating is also included) across the EU 27. From this, the proportion of CO2 emissions caused by each fuel type can be calculated. For example, gaseous fuels (primarily natural gas) have a smaller share of fuel inputs relative to their share of output emissions, due a lower carbon content of the fuel.
- Given the current average efficiency and fuel mix in 2007, if conventional thermal power plants in the EU-27 were to further improve their efficiency, significant CO2 savings could be achieved as illustrated by Figure 4 (by comparison, the Kyoto commitment for the EU-15 is about 340MtCO2 on average for the period 2008-2012). For example, new state-of-the art MACC (More Advanced Combined Cycle) gas turbines can achieve electricity generation efficiencies of 60% (Ecofys, 2007). Furthermore, combined heat and power (CHP) plants that utilise a greater portion of 'waste' heat (e.g. lower grade heat directly for space heating) can reach even higher overall efficiencies.
National emissions reported to the UNFCCC and to the EU Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Mechanism
provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) , United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnca-Diana Barbu
EEA Management Plan2009 2.9.1 (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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