Final energy consumption intensity (ENER 021) - Assessment published Apr 2012
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?
Over the period 1990-2009, the EU-27 final energy intensity has decreased by 26% at an annual average rate of 1.6%/year. From 2005 to 2009, decoupling of economic growth from final energy consumption was more rapid and resulted in a faster energy intensity reduction of 2.2%/year: since 2005, decoupling was the most successful in the agriculture and industrial sectors where the energy intensity has decreased by respectively 3.3%/year and 3.1%/year. In the tertiary and transport sectors the final energy consumption intensities have decreased by 2.4%/y and 0.5%/y since 2005. In the households sector, the final energy consumption per capita decreased slightly (-1%/year over 2005-2009), due to counterbalancing effects: larger and more numerous dwellings, greater ownership of electrical appliances on the one hand, energy efficiency improvements on the other hand. In non EU-EEA countries, the final energy intensity has decreased by 8.3% or 0.5%/year over the period 1990-2009.
Variation of final energy intensity in EU and EEA countries, 1990-2009
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
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
Final energy intensity
- From 1990 to 2009, the final energy intensity of the EU-27 decreased by 26% at an annual average rate of 1.6%. Since 2005, the energy intensity mainly decreased in the agriculture and industrial sectors by respectively 3.3%/year and 3.1%/year. In the tertiary and transport sectors the final energy consumption intensities decreased by 2.4%/year and 0.5%/year since 2005. In the households sector, the final energy consumption per capita decreased slightly (-1%/year). Improvements in final energy intensity were 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 2009, the GDP decreased by 4.3% and the final energy consumption dropped by 5.2%, which resulted in a decrease of 1% in the final energy intensity of the EU-27. In 2009, the final energy intensity was 25.9%, lower than in1990.
- Trends are very different among countries: final energy intensity decreased by more than 4%/year since 1990 in Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania, between 2 and 4%/year in Czech Republic, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Norway, Ireland and Luxembourg, mainly due to energy efficiency progress and restructuring in industry. . .
- In the non EU EEA member countries, the final energy intensity decreased by 8.3 % over the period 1990 to 2009, at an annual average rate of 0.5 %: GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.5% while final energy consumption increased by an average annual rate of 2 %. Therefore, in these countries, there is a slower pace of decoupling between final energy consumption and economic growth, mainly due to developments in Turkey. Over the period 2005-2009, the intensity decreased slightly faster, by 0.6%/year. In 2009, the economic crisis led to a strong reduction in the final energy intensity in non EU EEA member countries (-2.1%): the final energy consumption dropped much faster than the GDP (5.1% compared to 3%).
- From 1990 to 2009, the final energy consumption of the EU-27 has increased by 0.2 %/year. During the same period, CO2 emissions from fuel combustion have decreased by 13.4% (- -35.8% in manufacturing industries and construction, -15% in residential, tertiary and agriculture but + 20.8% in transport. The CO2 emissions of industrial process have also decreased by 30.8% since 1990 (EEA, 2011b). In 2009, the economic crisis induced a significant decrease in CO2 emissions from the energy industry (-8%) and from the manufacturing industries and construction (-15.5%). An important decrease was also observed in industrial process (-17.1%).
Between 1990 and 2009, the emissions of other air pollutants decreased more significantly: SOx (-80 %), CO (-62 %), NMVOCs (-55 %) and NOx (-44 %) (EEA, 2011a).
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?
The final household energy consumption has grown almost at the same pace as the population since 1990 (average annual rate of 0.4 % for the population compared to 0.3 % for the energy consumption). As a result, the final energy intensity in the households sector, measured by the ratio “energy consumption divided by population” has only increased moderately by 1.6 % between 1990 and 2009, i.e. at an average annual rate of 0.1%. This trend resulted from counterbalancing effects: increased comfort levels on the one hand, energy efficiency improvements on the other hand (see ENER 022). The final energy consumption intensity in the households sector 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). An opposite trend can be observed over the period 2005-2009 with a decrease of the consumption per capita by 1%/year (the same for the year 2009), reflecting larger energy efficiency improvements and also, in some countries, comfort restrictions by households due to income reduction.
Please note that figures presented in this indicator are not directly comparable with the figures presented in the ENER 022. Most of the trends presented in ENER 022 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 2005 and 2009, the energy intensity in the industrial sector decreased by 12%, at an annual average rate of 3.1 %. Over the same period of time, the gross value added of the industrial sector increased by 8%, at an annual average rate of 2.1 % and the final energy consumption of industry declined over 1990-2009 by 18.1%, at an annual average rate of 1.4%. In 2009, the economic crisis had a large impact on the industrial sector. While the total GDP of the EU-27 decreased by 4.3% between 2008 and 2009, the gross value added of industry dropped by 12.1%. The drop in the energy consumption of the industrial sector was even greater (14.7%). As a consequence, the energy intensity of industry decreased by 2.9% in 2009.
- This energy intensity decrease is mainly due to energy efficiency improvements in the industry (see also the ODEX in ENER025) and to a lesser extent to a shift towards less energy-intensive industries.
Specific policy question: Is the final energy consumption intensity decreasing in the services and agriculture sectors?
- From 2005 to 2009, energy intensity of the service and agricultural sectors declined by 2.4 %/year and 3.3%/year respectively. Therefore, there is for both sectors a significant decoupling of energy consumption from the gross value added. During this period, the gross value added for the services and agriculture sector increased by 6% and 3.5% respectively, at an average annual rate of 1.5 % and 0.9%. The energy consumption of services increased by 3.3 % (0.8%/year); the energy consumption of agriculture (and fisheries) decreased by 9.5% (2.5%/year).
- In 2009, the gross value added of the EU-27 services sector decreased for the first time since 1995 (-2.2%). The decrease of energy consumption was less significant (-1.4%), which implied a 0.8% increase of the final energy intensity of the services sector. In the same time, the gross value added of the agriculture sector increased by 1.7% whereas energy consumption dropped by 2.3%. As a result, the final energy intensity of agriculture decreased by 4.9% in 2009.
- The reduction in energy intensity in services is the result of counterbalancing drivers: energy efficiency, on the one hand, and increase in comfort and in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in offices, on the other hand. The underlying factors explaining the energy efficiency improvement include increase in insulation and in heating equipment. For agriculture, the main drivers are energy efficiency improvements and increase in productivity.
Specific policy question: Is the final energy consumption intensity decreasing in the transport sector?
- Between 2005 and 2009, 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 2%, at an average annual rate of 0.5 %.
The decrease of the energy intensity in transport is due to different factors: on the one hand this is due to energy efficiency increase, improvement in trucks management of transport operations (load factor) ; on the other hand these benefits have been partially offset by modal shifts to more energy intensive modes of transport (increase in air traffic and in the use of cars instead of public transport and the increasing use of trucks instead of rail or inland waterways for good transportation increased). In 2009, the energy consumption in transport decreased by 2.7%; GDP decreased by 4.3% due to the financial and economic crisis. As a result, the energy intensity of the transport sector decreased by 1.6% in 2009.
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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