Overview of the electricity production and use in Europe (ENER 038) - Assessment published Mar 2013
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
- ENER 038
Key policy question: Is the electricity production becoming less carbon intensive in Europe?
Fossil fuels and nuclear energy continue to dominate the gross power generation mix in EU-27, with a respective share of 51% and 27.4% in 2010. The share of electricity generated from renewable sources is in rapid progression and reached 20.9% in 2010 (12.5% in 1990).
Final electricity consumption increased by 32% in the EU-27 since 1990 at an average annual growth of around 1.4% per year. In the EU-27, the strongest growth was observed in the services sector (3.3%/year), followed by households (1.7%/year) and industry (0.2/year). In non-EU EEA countries, the growth in electricity consumption was much more rapid and reached 3.1%/year, driven by the rapid growth in Turkey.
Gross electricity production by fuel, EU-27
Note: Data shown are for gross electricity production and include electricity production from both public plants and auto-producers. Renewables include electricity produced from hydro (excluding pumping), biomass, municipal waste, geothermal, wind and solar PV. The share of renewables presented in the chart is that for production and hence does not correspond to the share, for consumption, as required by Directive 2001/77/EC. The difference between both shares is accounted for by the net balance between imports and exports of electricity. ‘Other fuels’ include electricity produced from power plants not accounted for elsewhere, such as those fuelled by certain types of industrial wastes. It also includes the electricity generated as a result of pumping in hydro-power stations.
- Supply, transformation, consumption - electricity - annual data provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
- Total electricity production increased by 30% at an average annual growth rate of 1.3%/year from 1990 to 2010 in the EU-27. Since 2005 a slower progression of 0.2%/year was observed. Nuclear and coal dominate the fuel mix for electricity production with respectively 27.4% and 24.7% of the production followed by natural gas with 23.6% and renewables with 20.9%.
- As a result of these fuel shifts, in 2010, the average emission factor intensity of the electricity production in EU-27 was 34% below its 1990 level, at around 360 gCO2 /kWh.
- The total electricity produced from solid fuels decreased by 18.8% between 1990 and 2010, at an annual average rate of 1%. This decrease mainly took place before 2000 due to the price differential with natural gas and more stringent environmental regulations (during this period the share of coal and lignite in electricity production decreased from 39% in 1990 to 29% in 1999, or -10 points) For the period 2005-2010, the electricity production from solid fuels decreased by 14.4 at a rate of 3.1%/year.
- The share of natural gas in total electricity production increased from 8.6% in 1990 to 23.6% in 2010, at an annual average growth rate of 6.5%/year. The primary motive for the switch to gas was economic, with low gas prices for much of the 1990s compared to coal and stricter environmental legislation but also due to the availability of alternative routes via LNG that improved the security of supply. This rapid increase in gas demand also contributed to the increase in fossil fuels imports (see ENER36). Between 2005 and 2010, we can observe a slowdown in the electricity produced from natural gas (+2.6%/year) compared to 13.8%/year from 1990 to 2005.
- The share of renewable electricity in total electricity production was 21.5% in 2010 in EU-27 compared to 13% in 1990, and 15% in 2005. In 2010, 59.7% of the renewable electricity (and approximately 11.8% of total gross electricity generation) was from hydro, followed by wind with 20.7%, biomass with 15.4%, (3.7 % in total gross electricity generation) solar with 3.2% and geothermal with 0.8%. The electricity production from renewables grew at an annual average growth rate of 2.8% until 2005 and 7.4% since 2005.
- The total electricity produced from nuclear increased by 15.3% since 1990 at an average annual rate of 0.7%. Electricity production from nuclear is decreasing since 2005 (-1.7%/year on average between 2005 and 2010 compared to 1.5%/year from 1990 to 2005), mainly in UK (-5.3%/year), Sweden (-4.4%/year), Germany (-2.9%/year) , France (-1%/year) and Lithuania with the shutdown of Ignalina Power Plant in June 2009. On the opposite over the same period, nuclear production increased in countries such as Romania with 16%/year, Hungary with 2.6%/year, Czech Republic with 2.5%/year and Spain with 1.5%/year. At EU level the share of electricity production from nuclear in gross electricity production declined from 30.5% in 1990, to 29.8 % in 2005 and 27.1% in 2010. Until the accident of Fukushima, in early 2011, there was an increased interest towards building new nuclear power plants in countries like the UK, the Baltic States, Poland, Sweden, and Finland or extending the life times of existing NPP’s (for instance in France, the Netherlands) due to concerns over security of supply, high volatility of energy commodity prices and climate change. Following the Fukushima accident, Germany and Belgium announced plans to decommission all nuclear capacity by 2022 (Germany) and 2025 (Belgium on the condition that new alternatives for replacement are found by 2015). In Switzerland, it was decided to close all nuclear power plants at the end of their life time (i.e. between 2019 for the first one and 2034 for the last one) and not to build new ones, as planned before. UK, the Baltic States, Poland and Finland seem to keep their objective to build NPPS.
- In non EU-EEA countries, electricity production increased by 70% at an annual average rate of 2.7%/year from 1990 to 2010. Between 2005-2010, electricity production increased by 2.3%/year compared to 2.9%/year from 1990 to 2005. Renewable (mainly hydro), represents more than half of electricity production (54.1%) in these countries, followed by gas 25.5%, coal 12.9% and nuclear 6.4% (2010).
 Calculated as the ratio CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production from EEA related to the electricity production
Specific policy question: Is electricity consumption increasing in Europe?
Final electricity consumption by sector, EU-27
Note: Final electricity consumption is the electricity consumption of the final energy demand sectors, it does not include own use by electricity producers or transformation, transmission and distribution losses.
- Energy statistics (Eurostat) provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
- Between 1990 and 2010 electricity consumption increased in EU-27 by 32% at an annual average growth rate of 1.4% per year. Most countries in the EU-27 experienced an overall increase in electricity consumption over the period 1990- 2010, except for Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania. During this period, the average annual growth rate of electricity consumption varied greatly by country, ranging from less than -1.4 % per year in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania to annual increases over 5 % in Cyprus or 7% in Turkey. The decrease or low growth in electricity consumption in the new Member States was a combined result of economic restructuring in the 1990s, price adjustments and a decrease or low growth of the total population in those countries.
- Industry is the largest consumer of electricity with 36.5% share in 2010 of the total electricity consumption in the EU. However, its importance is decreasing (in 1990 its share was 45.9%) due to a low progression of the electricity consumption in the sector: Between 1990 and 2005, the electricity consumption in the industry sector in the EU increased only by 0.9%/year; it decreased by 1.7%/year from 2005 to 2010. Since 1990, the electricity consumption in the service sector in EU-27 increased by 93.2% at an annual growth rate of 3.3 % (rather same rate since 2005). This sector is the sector with the fastest growing consumption: as result its importance is growing and in 2010 nearly 29.4% of the electricity was consumed in services in the EU against 20.5% in 1990 (an increase of 9.3 percentage points). 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 air conditioning and IT equipment (see ENER37). Households represented 29.7% of the electricity consumption in the EU-27 in 2010 (28.1% in 1990). Between 1990 and 2010, the electricity consumption in the household sector in EU-27 grew by 39 %, at an average annual rate of 1.7 %. Between 2005 and 2010, the progression of the electricity consumption in the household sector was almost halved and only increased by 0.9%/year. Improvements in the energy efficiency of large electrical appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, TVs and dryers, were to a large extent offset by the use, numbers and size of large appliances as well as a growing number of smaller appliances and IT appliances (see explanatory factors of the energy consumption of households are shown in ENER37). The transport sector is only responsible for 2.4 % of total electricity consumption in EU-27. Between 1990 and 2010, final electricity consumption in this sector in EU-27 countries only grew by 7.3 %, at an average annual rate of 0.4 %. This increase can mainly 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 in recent years for the new Member States (EU-12) was opposite to that observed in EU-15 countries. Due to lower usage of trains and urban public transport and an increase in road and air transport, a gradual decrease in electricity consumed for transport purposes was observed in the new Member States. Between 1990 and 2010, the average annual decrease for EU-12 was 2.7 % and the overall decrease was 42% for EU-12 countries. Electricity consumption for transportation in EU-12 countries decreased by 12.7% (or 2.7%/year) between 2005 and 2010 with the strongest decline observed in Estonia (-11.2%/year), Lithuania (-5.9%/year), Poland and Bulgaria (-4.5%/year), Romania (-3.4%/year). Agriculture/forestry/fishing represented 1.8 % of total electricity consumption in the EU in 2010 (2.5% in 1990). Electricity consumption for agriculture/forestry/fishing decreased by 0.8%/year over the period 1990-2005 but increased by 1%/year since 2005 (-0.3%/year over the period 1990-2010).
- In non-EU EEA countries between 1990 and 2010, electricity consumption in the service sector more than doubled in this period (+ 132 %) at an annual growth rate of 4.3 %. The strongest growth was observed in Turkey, where total electricity use more than quadrupled in this period (9.5 % /year on average) (see Figure 2). In non-EU EEA countries, electricity consumption in the household sector grew by 86 % in this period, at an average annual growth rate of 3.2%. Between 2005 and 2010, electricity consumption in the household sector increased by 3.6%/year. Since 1990, electricity consumption in the industry sector for non-EU EEA countries increased by 56 % (2.2 %/year). This was mainly driven by the increase in final electricity consumption (industry) in Turkey of 5.3%/year. Between 2005 and 2010, the growth in electricity consumption in industry slowed down (only 1.4%/year). In the non-EU EEA countries, electricity consumption in the transport sector increased by 25 % from 1990-2010 with an annual growth rate of 1.1 %, this is mainly due to a large increase in Turkey of 2.9%/year. In 2005 to 2010 the electricity consumption in the transport sector only increased by 0.6%/year, with a decline in Turkey of 4%/year. In non-EU EEA countries, electricity consumption in the agricultural sector increased by 6.8%/year. The share of electricity consumed in this sector increased by 1.2% (of the total electricity consumed) in 1990 to 2.5% in 2010.
- Electricity consumption per capita increased continuously in EU -27 since 1990. In 2010, the electricity consumption per capita was 5660 kWh/capita compared to 4570 kWh/capita in 1990. This consumption also varies greatly between countries, with the lowest per capita consumption occurring in some new Member States, including Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria (see Figure 3). 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 northern-most countries, (Norway, Finland and Sweden); in Norway and Sweden this is due to a high penetration of electrical heating linked to low-cost of electricity produced by hydropower (see Figure 4 and ENER37).
- In non-EU EEA countries, total electricity consumption increased by 82.5 % between 1990 and 2010, or 3.1%/year, which is considerably faster than in the EU-27. This high rate was mainly caused by Turkey, with an average annual growth rate of 6.9 % due to the rapid transition to a modernised economy with the associated increase in electricity. Between 2005 and 2010, there was a continued increase of 3% in non-EU EEA countries, of which 5.7%/year for Turkey.
- In the non EU EEA countries, the electricity consumption per capita increased at a slower pace (then average in the EU-27 in countries like Norway (0.2%/year) and Switzerland (0.4%/year). In Turkey, the growth was very rapid (+5.5%/year). In 2010 electricity consumption per capita reaches 23 606 kWh for Norway, 7677 kWh for Switzerland and only 2341 kWh for Turkey.
Specific policy question: Are power plants becoming more efficient?
- The average efficiency of electric sector is around 41 % in EU-27 average. This efficiency is mainly dependant on the power generation mix, and in particular on the share of hydro and wind, that have an efficiency of 100%. Norway, Austria, Latvia or Sweden have an efficiency that exceeds 50 % (respectively 46% in Sweden, 50% in Latvia, 65% in Austria and even 97% in Norway in 2010). This is the result of the large contribution of hydropower to power generation (around 95% in Norway, more than 50% in Sweden, Latvia and Austria). On the contrary, the efficiency is low (i.e. below 35%) in Bulgaria and Czech Republic due to the large diffusion of coal or the use of low efficient oil power plants in Malta.
- Since 1990, the average power efficiency has slightly increased from 36% to 41% in 2010 at EU level (+ 5 points). The largest progressions occurred in Romania (+15 points), Spain (+13 points) and Ireland, Poland and Portugal (+10 points), thanks to the commissioning of new combined cycle gas turbines (Ireland, Spain and Portugal). On the contrary, this share is decreasing in Sweden (-4 points) and Norway (-3 points) because of a decreasing share of hydro.
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 InfoMihai Florin Tomescu
EEA Management Plan2012 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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