Primary energy consumption by fuel (CSI 029/ENER 026) - Assessment published Mar 2007
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 029
- ENER 026
Key policy question: What are the trends concerning the energy mix in gross inland energy consumption Europe?
Fossil fuels continue to dominate total energy consumption, but environmental pressures have been reduced, partly due to a significant switch from coal and lignite to relatively cleaner natural gas in the 1990s. The share of renewable energy sources remains small despite an increase in absolute terms. Overall, total energy consumption increased by an average of 0.8 % per annum during the period 1990-2004, thus counteracting some of the environmental benefits from fuel switching.
Total energy consumption by fuel in the EU-25, 1990-2004
European Environment Agency and Eurostat
Total energy consumption by fuel (%) in 2004
Note: TOE refers to tonnes of oil equivalents.
European Environment Agency and Eurostat
Total energy consumption in the EU-25 increased by 12.0 % between 1990 and 2004. Over the same period, the share of fossil fuels, including coal, lignite, oil and natural gas, in total energy consumption declined slightly from 83 % in 1990 to 79.0 % in 2004, although fossil fuel consumption increased in absolute terms. The use of fossil fuels has considerable impact on the environment and is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, changes in the fossil fuel mix have brought environmental benefits. Overall, the share of coal has decreased and coal has been to some extent replaced by relatively cleaner natural gas. However, coal consumption has remained stable since 1999 and gas consumption continued increasing.
Most of the switching from coal to gas occurred in the power generation sector. In the pre-2004 EU-15 Member States this was supported by implementation of environmental legislation and 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, taxation, the removal of energy subsidies and introduction of policies to privatise and restructure the energy sector.
Oil accounted for around 37 % of total energy consumption in 2004 and continued to be the major fuel in the transport sector. Consumption increased at an average annual rate of 0.6 % over the period 1990-2004, mainly as a result of increased demand for petrol and diesel in the transport sector, although this was tempered by a decline in the use of oil in other sectors, such as for power generation.
Renewable energy, which typically has lower environmental impacts than fossil fuels, has seen rapid growth in absolute terms, but from a low starting point. Renewables (together with natural gas) were the fastest growing energy source between 1990 and 2004, but despite increased support at the EU and national level, their contribution to total energy consumption remains low at just 6.3 % in 2004.
The share of nuclear power has remained stable over the last few years, accounting for 15 % of total energy consumption in 2004. 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.
Changes in the fuel mix have helped reducing otherwise higher greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the production of heat and electricity. However, rising total energy consumption in absolute terms (0.8 % per year during 1990-2004) has counteracted some of the environmental benefits of the fuel switch.
Total primary energy supply by product (IEA)
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Eurostat - Statistical Office of the European Union (ESTAT)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
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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