Primary energy consumption by fuel
Fossil fuels continue to dominate total energy consumption, but environmental pressures have been reduced by switching from coal and lignite to relatively clean natural gas.
What are the trends concerning the energy mix in gross inland energy consumption Europe?
Total energy consumption by fuel in the EU-25
Note: (1990 - 2003)
Total energy consumption by fuel (%)
Note: TOE refers to tonnes of oil equivalent.
The share of fossil fuels such as coal, lignite, oil and natural gas in total energy consumption declined only slightly between 1990 and 2003, down to 79 %. Their use has considerable impact on the environment and is the main cause of sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and greenhouse gas emissions. However, changes to the fossil fuel mix have benefited the environment, with the share of coal and lignite declining continuously and being replaced by relatively cleaner natural gas, which now has a 23.6 % share. In recent years, higher gas prices have led to an increased consumption of coal, with an associated rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
Most of the switch between fossil fuels occured in the power generation sector. In the pre-2004 EU-15 Member States this was supported by the implementation of environmental legislation and the liberalisation of electricity markets, which stimulated the use of combined-cycle gas plants due to their high efficiency, low capital cost and low gas prices in the early 1990s, and by the expansion of the trans-EU gas network. Fuel mix changes in the new Member States were induced by the process of economic transformation, which led to changes in fuel prices and taxation and removal of energy subsidies, and policies to privatise and restructure the energy sector.
Renewable energy, which typically has lower environmental impacts than fossil fuels, has seen rapid growth in absolute terms, but from a low starting point. Despite increased support at the EU and national level, its contribution to total energy consumption remains low at 6 %. The share of nuclear power has grown slowly to reach almost 15 % of total energy consumption in 2003. While nuclear power produces little pollution under normal operations there is a risk of accidental radioactive releases, and highly radioactive wastes are accumulating for which no generally acceptable disposal route has yet been established.
Overall, the changes in the fuel mix of total energy consumption contributed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and acidifying substances per unit of energy produced. Rising total energy consumption however counteracted some of the environmental benefits of the fuel switch. Total energy consumption in the EU-25 increased by 10.9 % over the period 1990-2003.
Indicator specification and metadata
Total energy consumption or gross inland energy consumption represents the quantity of energy necessary to satisfy the inland consumption of a country. It is calculated as the sum of the gross inland consumption of energy from solid fuels, oil, gas, nuclear and renewable sources, and a small component of ‘other’ sources (industrial waste and net imports of electricity). The relative contribution of a specific fuel is measured by the ratio between the energy consumption originating from that specific fuel and the total gross inland energy consumption calculated for a calendar year.
Energy consumption is measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). The share of each fuel in total energy consumption is presented in the form of a percentage.
Projections are for 2020-2030 from the POLES (IPTS) Baseline and GHG Reduction Scenario, from the WEO 2009 (IEA) Reference and 450 Stabilization Case and from PRIMES (EC) Baseline and Reference scenarios
Policy context and targets
The level, the evolution as well as the structure of the total gross inland energy consumption provide an indication of the extent environmental pressures caused by energy production and consumption are likely to diminish or not. The indicator displays data disaggregated by fuel type as the associated environmental impacts are fuel-specific.
The consumption of fossil fuels (such as crude oil, oil products, hard coal, lignite and natural and natural gas) has a number of negative effects on the environment and human health , CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution levels (e.g. SO2 and NOX), water pollution and biodiversity loss. These effects are fuel-specific.. For instance, natural gas, for instance, has approximately 40 % less carbon than coal per unit of energy content, and 25 % less carbon content than oil, and contains only marginal quantities of sulphur (see Figure 3 below). There are other environmental pressures coming from energy production: air pollution, land –use changes and crop-escape (that could result in large scale introduction of invasive species) from biomass, surface and groundwater pollution, ecosystem services and biodiversity loss, etc. The pressure on the environment and human health from energy consumption can be diminished by decreasing energy consumption and switching to energy sources that have a lower impact on the environment and human health.While nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution over the life cycle compared to conventional sources, there is a risk of accidental radioactive releases, and highly radioactive waste (for which no generally acceptable disposal route has yet been established) is accumulating.
A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final)
Presents a roadmap for action in line with a 80-95% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050.
Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 (COM(2011) 109 final)
Proposes additional measures to achieve the 20 % primary energy saving target by 2020.
Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final)
Energy efficiency is the first of the five priorities of the new energy strategy defined by the Commission.
Council adopted on 6 April 2009 the climate-energy legislative package containing measures to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. This package is designed to achieve the EU's overall environmental target of a 20 % reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 % share of renewable energy in the EU's total energy consumption by 2020.The climate action and renewable energy (CARE) package includes the following main policy documents
- Directive 2009/29/EC of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community
- Directive 2009/31/ EC of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide
- Directive 2009/28/ EC of the European parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
- Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
- Directive 2008/101/ EC of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
- Regulation (EC) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles
Large Combustion Plant Directive; Directive 2001/80/EC
Aims to control emissions of SO2, NOx and particulate matter from large combustion plants (> 50 MW).
Second Strategic Energy Review; COM(2008) 781 final
Strategic review on short, medium and long term targets on EU energy security.
Eco-Design Directive; COM(2008) 778 final/2
Directive on intensification of existing regulation on energy-efficiency of products.
Energy Performance Buildings Directive; Directive 2002/91/EC
The Member States must apply minimum requirements as regards the energy performance of new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of their energy performance and require the regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings.
Energy Performance Buildings Directive (recast); Directive 2010/31/EU
Strengthens the energy performance requirements of the 2002 Directive.
Directive on GHG emissions of fuels and biofuels; COM(2007) 18 final/2
Sets targets for the GHG emissions from different fuel types (e.g. by improving refinery technologies) and allows the blending of up to 10 % of biofuels into diesel and petrol.
Related policy documents
Energy Performance Buildings Directive
Directive 2008/101/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas Emission allowance trading within the community
Community guidelines on state aid for environmental protection (2008/c 82/01)
Directive 2009/29/ec of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/ec so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community.
Directive 2009/31/ec of the European parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.
COM (2011) 112 - A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050
With its "Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050" the European Commission is looking beyond these 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century as agreed by European Heads of State and governments. It shows how the sectors responsible for Europe's emissions - power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture - can make the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades.
COM(2007) 18 final
Directive on GHG emissions of fuels and biofuels; COM(2007) 18 final/2
Eco-Design Directive; COM(2008) 778
COM(2008) 781 final - Second Strategic Energy Review
COM(2010) 639 final: Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy
COM(2011) 109 final: Energy Efficiency Plan 2011
Energy Efficiency Plan 2011
Directive 2001/80/EC, large combustion plants
Directive 2001/80/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants
DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC
DIRECTIVE 2010/31/EU - Energy performance of buildings directive
DIRECTIVE 2010/31/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings(recast)
EEA (2009) - Review and analysis of emissions' life cycle analysis studies in the field of conventional and renewable energy generation technologies
Copenhagen, EEA, February 2009
REGULATION (EC) No 443/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 443/2009
Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
Methodology for indicator calculation
Methodology of data manipulation:
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
The coding (used in the Eurostat New Cronos database) and specific components of the indicator are:
- Numerator: solid fuels 2000 gross inland consumption 100900 + oil 3000 gross inland consumption 100900 + gas 4000 gross inland consumption 100900 + nuclear energy 5100 gross inland consumption 100900 + renewable energies 5500 gross inland consumption 100900 + industrial waste 7100 gross inland consumption + 6000 electrical energy 100900 gross inland consumption.
- Denominator: (total) gross inland consumption (of energy) 100900
The Agency had 32 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 27 European Union Member States and Turkey, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
Temporal coverage: 1990-2009
Methodology and frequency of data collection:
Data collected annually.
Eurostat definitions for energy statistics http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/en/nrg_quant_esms.htm
Methodology for gap filling
No gap filling necessary
No methodology references available.
The share of energy consumption for a particular fuel could decrease even though the actual amount of energy used from that fuel grows, as the development of the share for a particular fuel depends on the change in its consumption relative to the total consumption of energy.
From an environmental point of view, however, the relative contribution of each fuel has to be put in the wider context. Absolute (as opposed to relative) volumes of energy consumption for each fuel are the key to understanding the environmental pressures. These depend on the total amount of energy consumption as well as on the fuel mix used and the extent to which pollution abatement technologies are used.
Total energy consumption may not accurately represent the energy needs of a country (in terms of final energy demand). Fuel switching may in some cases have a significant effect in changing total energy consumption even though there is no change in (final) energy demand. This is because different fuels and different technologies convert primary energy into useful energy with different efficiency rates.
Data sets uncertainty
Officially reported data, updated annually. No obvious weaknesses.
Data have been traditionally compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, shared by Eurostat and the International Energy Agency, following a well established and harmonised methodology. Methodological information on the annual Joint Questionnaires and data compilation can be found in Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics.
Total primary energy supply by product (IEA)
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 029
- ENER 026
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnca-Diana Barbu
EEA Management Plan2010 (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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