Net Energy Import Dependency (ENER 012) - Assessment published Sep 2011
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
- ENER 012
Key policy question: Is fossil fuel import dependency decreasing in Europe?
The EU’s dependence on imports of fossil fuels from non-EU countries has increased in recent years. Total net imports (imports minus exports) of natural gas, solid fuels and oil (including petroleum products) as a share of primary energy consumption rose from 47.8 % in 2000 to 56.2% in 2008. The increased use of gas, primarily replacing domestic coal, has had a positive environmental benefit within the EU (for example via reduced emissions of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions), but has also increased some risks associated with security of energy supply.
EU27 net imports of natural gas, oil, solid fuels and the sum of these, by country of origin, as a % of fuel-specific gross inland energy consumption
Note: EU27 net imports of natural gas, oil, solid fuels and the sum of these, by country of origin, as a % of fuel-specific gross inland energy consumption
EU27 Member State net (Extra-EU27) imports of natural gas, oil and solid fuels as a % of total Gross Inland Energy Consumption, 2008
Note: EU27 Member State net (Extra-EU27) imports of natural gas, oil and solid fuels as a % of total Gross Inland Energy Consumption, 2008
EU27 Member State primary production of natural gas, oil and solid fuels as a % of total Gross Inland Energy Consumption, 2008
Note: EU27 Member State primary production of natural gas, oil and solid fuels as a % of total Gross Inland Energy Consumption, 2008
Net imports of all fossil fuels and CO2 emissions in EU-27 by fuel and origin of the fuel, 2008
Note: Net imports of all fossil fuels and CO2 emissions in EU-27 by fuel and origin of the fuel, 2008
The EU’s energy system remains highly dependent on fossil fuels (see ENER 26). The EU’s dependence on imports of fossil fuels (natural gas, solid fuels and oil) from non-EU countries rose from 47.8% in 2000 (as a share of total gross inland energy consumption) to 56.2 % in 2008 (see Figure 1, 55.4% excluding the net imports of petroleum products). Of these imports, 21% originate from Russia, 10% from Norway and 4% from Libya and Algeria. Oil imports are highest and accounted for 59.2% of total net fossil fuel imports and 91.2% of oil-based gross inland consumption in 2008, followed by natural gas 27.2% of total fossil fuel import and 62.3% of gas-based gross inland consumption and solid fuels with 13.6% of total fossil fuel import and 44.9% of solid fuel-based gross inland consumption (see Figure 1 and Figure 2 for data by member state).
There is a large trade volume of petroleum products in the EU27. In 2008, 298.7 Mtoe petroleum products were imported in EU27 countries, equivalent to 45.5% of total oil-based gross inland consumption. A share of 63% of this traded volume moved within EU27 countries. In the same year, 284.9 Mtoe was exported, of which 63% within EU27 countries. The resulting net import of petroleum products in EU27 from countries outside EU27 was equivalent to 13.8 Mtoe in 2008.
In addition to fossil fuels, Europe imports uranium for its nuclear power industry which accounts for about 30% of the world's nuclear power generation. The EU industry has the capacity for uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication, but is dependent on imported uranium (see also ENER13). The situation is however better (from diversity of supply point of view) than for most fossil fuels, due to the wide distribution of uranium around the globe, in geopolitically stable areas (see Figure 5). In 2008, 22% of uranium delivered to utilities in EU27 originated from Australia, 20% from Russia and 19% from Canada.
Biomass imports in EU27 are small. In 2008, net imports as share of total primary biomass supply amounted to 2.4% and 4.5% of total imports (IEA, 2009).
Russia remains the largest single energy exporter of energy commodities to the EU in 2008, having supplied 21% of EU’s total gross inland energy consumption and 33% of total import of fossil fuels, up from 24% in 2000 (see Figure1). The increase reflects mainly the quadrupling of coal exports and doubling of oil exports over the period. In addition, Russia supplied 17% of uranium to the EU in 2008.
The net dependence on fuel imports varies significantly between Member States as illustrated by Figure 2. This reflects differences in the availability of indigenous fossil resources and renewables (see ENER 26 and ENER29). In addition, the level of crude oil import reflects the availability of refining capacity and direct production of final products (for self consumption or export) versus direct import of these final products (Wood Mackenzie, 2007). In some cases (for example Lithuania) this leads to high import dependence as a share of primary energy of 115% in 2008 (as some refined products are exported). Conversely, for other countries there is limited or no refining capacity (for example in the case of Luxembourg) and hence only final products are imported.
 Definitions are provided in the meta data.
Specific policy question: What are the trends and the driving forces behind the gas import dependency?
Natural gas imports accounted for 62% of total EU’s gas-based gross inland consumption in 2008, up from 49% in 2000. Rising natural gas net imports are driven by a combination of: declining domestic EU reserves, rising electricity demand and environmental legislation (such as the Large Combustion Plant Directive 2001/80/EC and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme 2003/87/EC), which tends to favour the use of natural gas which is less polluting. The price differential with coal also plays a role. In 2008, imported gas (from outside the EU27) came mainly from Russia (40%) and Norway (30%).
In 2009, the share of LNG in imported natural gas amounted to 15% of gas-based gross inland consumption. LNG is expected to have wider applications from replacing piped natural gas to ship fuel and fuel for industrial applications (see for instance the small scale LNG production in Norway). Spain, France and the UK are the biggest LNG importers in 2009 according to BP (2010), accounting for 73% of total LNG imports in EU27. A larger share of LNG in the European energy mix may reduce the environmental pressures coming from energy production (GHG emissions and air pollution), depending on the fuel used for shipping as well as the routes chosen. Also, the development of LNG markets may help in diversifying the natural gas suppliers, as countries such as Egypt and Qatar are expected to be amongst the main suppliers of LNG.
Specific policy question: What are the trends and the driving forces behind the solid fuels import dependency?
The share of coal imports in the EU’s coal-based gross inland consumption was 45% in 2008, up from 30% in 2000. 75% of this import is hard coal, 23% for hard coke and 2% for lignite. The EU still has significant reserves of coal, estimated to range between 8.5-19 Gtonne for hard coal and 21-75 Gtonne for lignite in 2005, equivalent to 60-200 times the current coal use in EU27 (EC, 2008c). However, the lowest-cost seams have generally been extracted already making it more economic to import. The share of coal in gross inland energy consumption has declined over time, from 27% in 1990 to 18% in years 2001-2008 due to increasing use of natural gas, mainly in power generation and space heating (see also Figure 3 for domestic production).
Specific policy question: What are the trends and the driving forces behind the oil and oil products import dependency?
Oil imports in 2008 represented 91% of EU’s oil-based gross inland consumption, up from 81% in 2000. The higher absolute share of oil products reflects limited EU domestic production (see Figure 3), rising transport demand and the current limited use of other energy sources in the transport sector.
Transport energy consumption in EEA member countries increased by 33 % between 1990 and 2006 (from 336 to 446 of Mtoe). Road transport, consuming around 71 % of transport energy consumption (327Mtoe in 2008), is the largest consumer. The energy consumed by rail has remained fairly constant. Aviation is the fastest growing energy consumer, with an increase of 87 % between 1990 and 2008 (from 31.4 to 58.5 Mtoe). Energy consumption in maritime transport (i.e. bunkers) has grown by 51% since 1990 (from 36.1 Mtoe to 54.6 Mtoe in 2008) (see TERM01).
Air Emission data set for Indicators
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
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 Plan2010 2.8.1 (note: EEA internal system)
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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