Between 1990 and 2014, energy intensity (the ratio of gross inland energy consumption and gross domestic product (GDP)) decreased by 1.7 % per year in both the EU-28 and the group of EEA countries. In 2014, energy intensity was 35 % below 1990 levels in the EU-28 and in the group of EEA countries.
During this period, the rate of decrease of energy intensity in the EU-28 has been rather constant. The 1990-2005 period is characterised by relatively high economic growth and the more moderate growth of gross inland energy consumption. The 2005-2014 period, however, is characterised by lower economic growth and decreasing gross inland energy consumption. As a result, the rate of decrease of energy intensity is rather similar in both periods.
In all EEA member countries  energy intensity decreased between 2005 and 2014, except for Estonia, Iceland and Turkey. The largest decreases were observed in central and eastern 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 of economic growth from energy consumption in Europe?
Energy intensity in the EU-28
- Between 1990 and 2005, a relative decoupling of economic growth from gross inland energy consumption occurred in the EU-28, as energy consumption grew more slowly than GDP. Since the 2005/2006 peak in EU-28 gross inland energy consumption, an absolute decoupling of economic growth from gross inland energy consumption has taken place. In 2014, gross inland energy consumption in the EU-28 was 12.3 % lower than in 2005, while the economy grew by 7.5 % during this period.
- In 2014, gross inland energy consumption in the EU-28 was 3.7 % below 1990 levels, an average decrease of 0.2 % per year (see ENER 026), while GDP, measured in 2010 constant prices, grew by 1.6 % per year. As a consequence, energy intensity in the EU-28 fell by 1.7 % per year during this period (see Figure 1).
- Between 2005 and 2014, gross inland energy consumption in EU-28 decreased by 1.4 % per year, while GDP increased by 0.8 % per year. As a consequence, energy intensity in the EU-28 decreased by an average of 2.2 % per year during this period.
- In 2014, energy intensity in the EU-28 was 34 % below 1990 levels. Since 2005, energy efficiency improvement has accelerated. Average per capita gross inland energy consumption in the EU-28 was 3.2 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) in 2014.
- In the EU-28, 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 to less energy intensive industries that have a higher value added.
Energy intensity in EEA member countries
- Between 1990 and 2014, all countries except Iceland, showed an absolute or relative decoupling of GDP growth from gross inland energy consumption development. Countries in which GDP grew while gross inland energy consumption fell (absolute decoupling) are: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. Countries in which GDP grew and gross inland consumption grew too, but at a lower pace (relative decoupling) are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. In Iceland, the growth of gross inland energy consumption exceeded economic growth between 1990 and 2014 (and in particular after 2005). In Turkey, growth in GDP and gross inland energy consumption have been closely linked between 1990 and 2014, but with GDP growing slightly more strongly, a slight relative decoupling has resultsed. For Switzerland, data on gross inland energy consumption were not available.
- Except for Estonia (+0.3 % per year), Iceland (4.9 % per year) and Turkey (+0.4 % per year), all EEA member countries show a decrease in energy intensity between 2005 and 2014. The largest decreases since 1990 were observed in central and eastern 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 less energy intensive sectors during the 2000s.
- In 2014, significant differences in energy intensity  were observed between the EU-28 Member States. The highest energy intensity was observed in Estonia, Finland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. The lowest energy intensity was observed in Ireland, Denmark, Malta and Italy.
- In 2014, the lowest values for gross inland energy consumption per capita were observed in Turkey, Romania and Croatia (less than 2 TOE per capita), while the highest values (more than 6 TOE per capita) were observed in Iceland, Luxembourg and Finland.
 To enable the comparison, energy intensity was measured, in this case, in purchasing power standards relative to the EU-28 average.
Indicator specification and metadata
Energy intensity is the ratio between the Gross Inland Energy Consumption (GIEC) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculated for a calendar year. 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, with a base year of 2010.
Gross inland energy consumption is measured in 1 000 tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe), while GDP is expressed in million Euros at 2010 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 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions 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 a 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 savings 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 sets emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community’s integrated approach to reducing 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.
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 Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are not covered or are 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://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Environment_and_energy.
- Methodology of data manipulation:
Energy intensity is defined as gross inland energy consumption (GIEC) divided by GDP at constant 2010 prices (i.e. to illustrate trends in economic energy intensity) and measures how much energy is required to generate one unit of GDP. Its variation over time reflects the influence of various factors, which include energy efficiency improvements, but also changes in the nature of the economic activity (the “economic structure”) or in the structure of the energy mix, changes in lifestyle (more appliances, higher indoor temperature in dwellings, more cars), climatic factors such as colder winters, etc.
The coding (used in the Eurostat database) and specific components of the indicator is:
- Denominator: B1GM GDP in millions of Euro, chain-linked volumes, reference year 2010 (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
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 States where the average price level is lower than in the EU-15 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.
- Relevance: 1
- Accuracy: 1
- Comparability over time: 1
- Comparability over space: 1
Methodology for gap filling
GDP is from the European Commission’s AMECO database. Data from the early 1990’s are not available for some EU Member States. The EU-28 estimate for the 1990 to 1992 period (growth rates 1991 to 1993) has been made by gap-filling these Member States using available GDP figures from the World Bank database. Gap-filling was carried out for the following counties and years: 1990-1992 for Estonia, Croatia and Slovakia; 1990-1991 for Latvia and Lithuania; 1990 for Bulgaria. In addition, 1990 GDP for Germany has been estimated on the basis of the 1991 growth rate in West Germany.
No methodology references available.
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 that show energy intensity in 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 have traditionally been compiled by Eurostat through the annual joint questionnaires, which are 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://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Environment_and_energy
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
provided by International Energy Agency (IEA)
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)
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
- CSI 028
- ENER 017
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoMihai Florin Tomescu
EEA Management Plan2016 1.3.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
- 05 Nov 2015 - Energy intensity
- 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 http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/total-primary-energy-intensity-3/assessment or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 26 Feb 2017, 06:45 PM