Final energy consumption intensity (ENER 021) - Assessment published Aug 2011
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- ENER 021
Key policy question: Has there been a decoupling between economic growth and final energy consumption in Europe?
Economic growth continues to entail less final energy consumption within the EU-27 economy. Over the period 1990-2008, the EU final energy intensity has decreased by around 1.6%/year, and mainly during the years 1996-2000 (-3.1%/year). Since 1995, decoupling of growth from final energy consumption was most successful in the agriculture and services sector where the energy intensity has decreased by respectively 25.7% and 24.9%. In the tertiary and transport sectors the final energy consumption intensities have decreased by 15 % and 8% compared to 1995. In the households sector, the final energy consumption per capita increased by 1.9 % since 1995 due to larger and more numerous dwellings, and greater ownership of electrical appliances.
Index of final energy intensity and energy intensity by sector, EU-27
Note: Index of final energy intensity and energy intensity by sector, EU-27. Final energy intensity or final energy consumption intensity refers to the ratio between the final energy consumption and the GDP
Eurostat (historical data) http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/ . GDP is based on 2010 Spring Forecasts, DG ECFIN, European Commission and is expressed in Euro at 2000 market prices
Variation of final energy intensity in EU and EEA countries, 1990-2008
Note: The figure shows the variation of final energy intensity (the ratio between the final energy consumption and the GDP) in EU and EEA countries
Final energy consumption from Eurostat, GDP based on 2010 Spring Forecasts, DG ECFIN, European Commission
Final energy intensity
- Over the period 1990 to 2008, the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the EU-27 grew at an annual average rate of 2.1 % while the final energy consumption only grew by 0.5 % annually. Consequently over the period, the final energy intensity decreased at an average annual rate of 1.6 %. In 2007, the decrease even reached 4.5 % compared to 2006.In 2008, the intensity remained at the same level as in 2007.
- Trends are very different among EU countries: final energy intensity decreased very rapidly in Estonia (by around 8%/year) and also to a lesser extent in Slovakia, Lithuania and Bulgaria (around 5%/year); on the contrary it increased in Portugal and Spain.
- Improvements in final energy intensity are influenced both by structural changes in the economy, such as a shift from industry towards services and, within industry, to less energy-intensive processes, and by energy efficiency improvements. In the household sector, improvements in the efficiency of electrical appliances and measures targeting the buildings’ envelope helped to slow down the growth in final energy consumption (see ENER016 and for energy efficiency in the household sector see ENER022).
- In the non EU EEA member countries, the final energy consumption intensity decreased by 7.2 % over the period 1990 to 2008, at an annual average rate of 0.4 %. At the same time, the GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.8% while final energy consumption increased by an average annual rate of 2.3 %. Therefore, in these countries, there is a slower pace of decoupling between final energy consumption and economic growth, mainly due to developments in Turkey.
- From 1990 to 2008, the final energy consumption of the EU-27 has increased by 9.5 %. During the same period, CO2 emissions from fuel combustion have decreased by 7.1% (-9.4% for the energy industry, -25.1% in manufacturing industries and construction, -12.1% in residential, tertiary and agriculture but + 23.8% in transport. The CO2 emissions of industrial process have also decreased by 11.6% since 1990 (EEA, 2009b). The emissions of other air pollutants decreased more significantly: SOx (-78 %), CO (-58 %), NMVOCs (-51 %) and NOx (-39 %) (EEA, 2009a).
Final energy intensity or final energy consumption intensity refers to the ratio between the final energy consumption and the GDP.
Specific policy question: Is the final energy consumption intensity decreasing in the households sector in Europe?
- Between 1990 and 2008, the final energy intensity in the households sector, measured by the ratio “energy consumption divided by population” has increased by 6.6 %, at an average annual rate of 0.36 %. The annual population growth has been 0.3 % and the final household energy consumption has grown by an average annual rate of 0.7 %. Until 2006, the final energy consumption in the households sector increased at an average annual rate of 0.9 %, but in 2007 the trend reversed, showing a steep decrease of the total final energy consumption of 5.8 % compared to 2006 (see ENER016).The energy intensity of the household sector decreased by 6.7% between 2006 and 2007, mirroring the decrease in final energy consumption. In 2008, the trends was reversed again with a consumption per capita which increased by 3.8%. The final energy consumption intensity is also closely linked with climatic conditions, as the major part of the energy is used for space heating (for details on energy efficiency improvements in the household sector see also ENER 022)
Please note that figures presented in this indicator are not directly comparable with the figures presented in the ENER 02. Most of the trends presented in ENER 02 refer to consumption adjusted from climate to make more realistic comparison between countries to avoid climatic variations and influence (in particular to compare Nordic and Southern countries).
Specific policy question: Is the final energy consumption intensity decreasing in the industrial sector?
- Between 1995 and 2007, the energy intensity in the industrial sector (excluded construction) decreased by 24.9%, at an annual average rate of 2.2 %. Over the same period of time, the gross value added within the industrial sector increased by 27.5%, at an annual average rate of 1.9 %. The decrease of the industrial energy intensity is rather continuous all over the period. The absolute industrial final energy consumption declined over 1990-2008 by 13 % at an annual average rate of 0.8 % (see also ENER 016). The improvement in energy intensity is therefore mainly due to a decoupling of energy consumption from the gross value added, which implies an achievement in energy efficiency in the industry (see also the ODEX in ENER022).
Specific policy question: Is the final energy consumption intensity decreasing in the services and agriculture sectors?
- In the EU-27, energy intensity of the service and agricultural sectors declined by 15% and 25.7% from 1995 to 2008, at an average annual rate of 1.2 % and 2.3%. The decrease mainly took place between 1996 and 2000 (-5.1%/year for the service, -3%/year for agriculture). In 2007 in particular, there was a sharp decrease of the energy intensity in this sector by 7.7 % for service and -5.4% for agriculture compared to 2006. From 1995 to 2008, the gross value added for the services and agriculture sector increased by 40.4% and 12.2% respectively, at an average annual rate of 2.6 % and 0.9%. The energy consumption of services increased by 21.5 % (1.5%/year) since 1995; in the same time the energy consumption of agriculture (and fisheries) tends to decrease by 15.6% (1.3%/year). The improvement in energy intensity is therefore due both to a decoupling of energy consumption from the gross value added, which implies some degree of energy efficiency in the services and agriculture as well as a faster growth of the gross value added. The underlying factors explaining the energy efficiency improvement include: increased use of information and communication technology in offices, a decrease of the average office or floor space per unit of added value and an increase in insulation. Over the period 1997-2007, the electricity consumption per employee in EU-27 increased by 10%, at an annual growth rate of 1%, due to increased use of air conditioning in southern countries and of IT and other electrical equipment (see ENER 024).
Specific policy question: Is the final energy consumption intensity decreasing in the transport sector?
- Between 1990 and 2008, some progress was made in decoupling the energy consumption in transport from economic growth, albeit much less noticeable than what can be observed in industry or service sectors. During this period of time, the final energy consumption intensity decreased by 7.2%, at an average annual rate of 0.4 %. The underlying factors for the observed trend include rapid growth in road transport, which led to a rapid increase in energy consumption despite some improvements in the fuel efficiency of cars. For example, the average fuel efficiency of a new car in the EU has increased by 17%  between 1995 and 2007. Freight transport is growing faster than the economy hence CO2emissions from freight transport are growing quickly. Passenger transport continues to grow, particularly in aviation and cars. Increased car usage and a reduced number of passengers per car offset improvements in fuel efficiency. Greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector continue to increase steadily (see ENER023)
 The average efficiency of new cars is calculated according to data provided by cars manufacturers ACEA / JAMA / KAMA
National accounts (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
GDP growth rate
provided by The World Bank
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoCinzia Pastorello
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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