Between 1990 and 2013, energy intensity (the ratio of gross inland energy consumption and GDP) decreased by 1.7% per year in the EU28 countries and by 1.6% per year in the EEA countries. In 2013, energy intensity was 32% below the 1990 level in the EU28 and 30% below in the EEA countries.
During this period, the rate of decrease of energy intensity in the EU28 has been rather constant. The period 1990-2005 is characterised by relatively high economic growth and the more modest growth of gross inland energy consumption. The period 2005-2013 is characterised by much smaller economic growth and decreasing gross inland energy consumption. The resulting rate of decrease of energy intensity is rather similar in these periods.
All EEA member countries  show a decrease of energy intensity between 2005 and 2013, except for Norway (annually +1.6%), Estonia (+0.3%) and Turkey (annually +0.3%). The largest decreases were observed in central European countries (e.g. Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) because of changes in their economic structure.
 The 33 EEA member countries include the 28 European Union Member States together with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
Has there been absolute decoupling between economic growth and energy consumption in Europe?
Energy intensity in the EU-28
- Between 1990 and 2005, a relative decoupling occurred in the EU28. Since the 2005-2006 peak in EU28 gross inland energy consumption, there has been an absolute decoupling between economic growth and gross inland energy consumption. In 2013, gross inland energy consumption in the EU28 was 8.7% lower than in 2005, while the economy grew by 5.7% during this period.
- In 2013, gross inland energy consumption in the EU28 was at almost the same level as in 1990 (see ENER 026), while Gross Domestic Product (GDP), measured in 2005 constant prices, grew by 1.7% per year. As a consequence, energy intensity in the EU28 fell by 1.7% per year during this period (see Figure 1).
- Between 2005 and 2013, gross inland energy consumption in EU28 decreased by 1.1% per year, while GDP increased by 0.7% per year. As a consequence, energy intensity in the EU28 decreased by 1.8% per year (on average) during this period.
- In 2013, energy intensity in the EU28 was 32% below the 1990 level. About one third of this reduction was observed between 1996 and 2000, a period dominated by economic growth and a more modest energy consumption. Average per capita gross inland energy consumption in the EU28 was 3.3 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) in 2013 (see Figure 2 (Table: Total energy intensity, relative energy intensity (as PPS) and per capita consumption).
- In the EU28, the observed reduction of energy intensity was influenced by improvements in energy efficiency - both for final users and for power generation - as well as by the increase of renewable energy in the power mix and by structural changes within the economy. The latter included an increase in the contribution of services to GDP and a shift within the industrial sectors from energy intensive industries towards less energy intensive industries that have a higher value added.
Energy intensity in EEA member countries
- Except for Norway (+1.6%), Estonia (+0.3%) and Turkey (+0.3%), all EEA member countries show a decrease of energy intensity between 2005 and 2013. The largest decreases were observed in central European countries (e.g. Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) because of the changes in their economic structure resulting from the closure of energy inefficient industries in the early 1990s, followed by economic growth in relatively energy extensive sectors during the 2000s.
- In 2013, significant differences in energy intensity were observed between the EU28 Member States. The highest energy intensity was observed in Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic and Bulgaria. The lowest energy intensity was observed in Ireland, Malta, Denmark and Italy (see Figure 2 (Table: Total energy intensity, relative energy intensity (as PPS) and per capita consumption) and also ENER 016).
- In 2013, the lowest values for gross inland energy consumption per capita were observed in Turkey, Romania and Croatia (less than 2 TOE per capita in 2013), while the highest values were observed in Luxembourg (8.1 TOE per capita), Norway (6.7 TOE per capita) and Finland (6.3 TOE per capita).
 To enable the comparison, energy intensity was measured, in this case, in purchasing power standards relative to the EU28 average.
Indicator specification and metadata
Energy intensity is the ratio between the gross inland consumption of energy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculated for a calendar year. The Gross Inland Energy Consumption (GIEC) is calculated as the sum of the gross inland consumption of the five sources of energy: solid fuels, oil, gas, nuclear and renewable sources. To monitor trends, GDP is in constant prices to avoid the impact of inflation, base year 2005.
Gross inland energy consumption is measured in 1000 tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe), while GDP is expressed in million Euros at 2005 market prices. To make comparisons of trends across countries more meaningful, the indicator is presented as an index. For country comparisons, two additional columns are included in the table in Figure 2 to show the current energy intensity in GDP in purchasing power standards for the latest available year, and also the energy intensity in terms of consumption per capita.
Policy context and targets
- The Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU, and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC puts forward an EU-wide 20% energy savings target for 2020, measured against primary energy consumption (i.e. gross inland energy consumption minus non-energy uses). The Directive also transforms certain aspects of the Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 into binding measures, with the objective being to make a significant contribution to meeting the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency target.
- The Energy Roadmap 2050 for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final) presents a roadmap for action in line with an 80-95% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050.
- A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy (COM(2011) 21) presents a strategic framework that should deliver a more sustainable use of natural resources and the shift towards resource-efficient, low-carbon growth in Europe.
- The Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 (COM(2011) 109 final) proposes additional measures to achieve the 20% primary energy saving target by 2020.
- The Energy 2020 strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final) identifies energy efficiency as a key priority.
- 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 emissions allowance trading scheme of community Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.
- 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 emissions allowance trading within the community.
- Regulation (EC) no 443/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council setting emissions performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
- The Second Strategic Energy Review (COM(2008) 781 final) reviews short, medium and long term targets on EU energy security.
- The EU Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (COM (2006)545 final) aims to boost the cost-effective and efficient use of energy in the EU. One of the priority areas is making power generation and distribution more efficient.
The Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency establishes a common framework of measures for the promotion of energy efficiency within the European Union in order to achieve the headline target of a 20% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2020. Member States are requested to set indicative targets. It is up to the Member States whether they base their targets on primary energy consumption, final energy consumption, primary or final energy savings or energy intensity.
Related policy documents
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.
Climate action and renewable energy package (CARE Package)
Combating climate change is a top priority for the EU. Europe is working hard to cut its greenhouse gas emissions substantially while encouraging other nations and regions to do likewise.
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.
Action Plan for Energy Efficiency
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
A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy
COM(2011) 109 final: Energy Efficiency Plan 2011
Energy Efficiency Plan 2011
COM(2011) 370 final Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on energy efficiency and repealing Directives
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 2012/27/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC
EC, Energy efficiency measures
Reducing energy consumption and eliminating energy wastage are among the main goals of the European Union (EU). EU support for improving energy efficiency will prove decisive for competitiveness, security of supply and for meeting the commitments on climate change made under the Kyoto Protocol.
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
- Geographical coverage:
The EEA member countries. These are the 28 European Union Member States plus Turkey, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are not covered or only partly covered in this factsheet due to lack of data for recent years.
- Methodology and frequency of data collection:
Data collected annually.
Eurostat definitions and concepts for energy statistics http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/en/nrg_quant_esms.htm.
- Methodology of data manipulation:
Numerator: 100900 Gross inland consumption (of energy).
Denominator: B1GM GDP in millions of Euro, chain-linked volumes, reference year 2005 (GDP in PPS is used for cross-country comparisons of energy intensity in a particular year).
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
GDP for the EU28 is not available in Eurostat before 1995 due to a lack of data for some countries. The GDP growth rate published by the World Bank (reference World Development Indicators 2012) was used as an additional data source for gap filling before 1995. GDP for EU28 as a whole and EEA countries has been calculated as a sum.
To compare the situation among countries and make a more realistic comparison, the energy intensity needs to be corrected to take into account differences in the general price levels. For that purpose, the GDP should be expressed in purchasing power parities. This is particularly true for new eastern Member Countries where the average price level is lower than in the EU15 countries: after adjustment, the energy intensities of these countries is almost twice as low, on average, than the values measured with exchange rates, and are more in line with other EU countries.
Overall scoring – historical data (1 = no major problems, 3 = major reservations):
- Relevance: 1
- Accuracy: 1
- Comparability over time: 1
- Comparability over space: 1
Methodology for gap filling
No gap filling is necessary.
No methodology references available.
There is no GDP available from Eurostat for the EU28 before 1995. Moreover, data was not available for a particular year for certain EU28 Member States. The intensity of energy consumption is relative to changes in real GDP. Cross-country comparisons of energy intensity based on real GDP are relevant for trends but not for comparing energy intensity levels in specific years and specific countries. This is why the indicator is expressed as an index. In order to compare the energy intensity between countries for a specific year, two additional columns are included showing energy intensity in purchasing power standards (PPS) and energy intensity per capita. PPS are currency conversion rates that convert to a common currency and equalise the purchasing power of different currencies. They are an optimal unit for benchmarking country performance in a particular year. Energy intensity should therefore always be put in the broader context of the actual fuel mix used to generate the energy.
Data sets uncertainty
Strengths and weaknesses (at data level)
Data has 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. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/en/nrg_quant_esms.htm
Gross domestic product (GDP) is the central aggregate of National Accounts. Some estimates have been necessary using the procedure described in point 3 of Technical information presented above. Methodological information related to GDP can be found on Eurostat’s website.
Total Primary Energy Supply non European countries (IEA)
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
Gross Domestic product at 2000 market prices non European countries
provided by UNSD (World Bank, World Development Indicators (WDI))
Gross Domestic product at current prices non European countries
provided by International Monetary Fund (IMF)
provided by Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)
Energy statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Annual Macroeconomic Database
provided by Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)
Energy (Primary topic)
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- CSI 028
- ENER 017
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoMihai Florin Tomescu
EEA Management Plan2015 1.3.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
- 24 Nov 2014 - Energy intensity
- 28 Feb 2013 - Energy intensity
- 30 Apr 2012 - Total primary energy intensity
- 08 Aug 2011 - Total primary energy intensity
- 14 Sep 2010 - Total primary energy intensity
- 28 Apr 2008 - Total primary energy intensity
- 22 May 2007 - EN17 Total Energy Intensity
- 23 Mar 2007 - Total primary energy intensity
- 12 Apr 2006 - Total primary energy intensity
- 27 Sep 2005 - Total primary energy intensity
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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