Household energy consumption

Briefing Published 29 Nov 2017 Last modified 24 Jun 2020
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EU indicator past trend

Selected objective to be met by 2020

Indicative outlook of the EU meeting the selected objective by 2020

Energy consumption by households

Green triangle: improving trend 

Reduce the overall environmental impact of production and consumption in the housing sector - 7th EAP

Green circle: it is expected that the objective will be met by 2020

The energy consumption of households in the EU decreased in the period examined (2005-2015). Policies already in place and the targets set for energy consumption under the Energy Union process should help to maintain this trend up to 2020 and beyond

For further information on the scoreboard methodology please see Box I.3 in the EEA Environmental indicator report 2017


The Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) includes the objective that the environmental impact of housing should be reduced. Energy consumption in the use phase of housing causes the largest environmental impacts. Overall, the energy consumption of households in the EU declined by 11 % over the 2005-2015 period examined. This shows that policies on the energy performance of buildings and appliances are having an effect. Nevertheless, these efficiency gains have been partly offset by an increasing number of electrical appliances and larger and more homes. Climatic conditions also play an important role in energy consumption of households. There was an increase of 4 % in 2015, compared with 2014, mainly because the 2015 winter was slightly colder. Targets set for energy consumption under the Energy Union process should help to maintain the momentum towards further energy efficiency improvements and subsequent reductions in energy use of households.

Setting the scene

The 7th EAP calls for 'structural changes in production, technology and innovation as well as consumption patterns and lifestyles to reduce the environmental impact of production and consumption in the food, housing and mobility sectors' (EU, 2013). This briefing focuses on housing aspects, while food (AIRS_PO2.10, 2017) and mobility (AIRS_PO2.9, 2017) are dealt with in two other related briefings. The construction and use of housing leads to a number of environmental impacts ranging from land take and the consumption of resources, to the production of waste during construction and demolition. The largest environmental impacts arguably result from energy consumption during the use phase.

Policy targets and progress

There is no environmental acquis equivalent to the 7th EAP selected objective. The key EU policies that have influenced household energy use are the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) (EU, 2010a), the Energy Labelling Directive (EU, 2010b), the Ecodesign Directive (EU, 2009) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EU, 2012). The EPBD requires Member States to set minimum energy performance standards for new buildings, to establish inspection schemes for heating and air conditioning systems, or to put in place measures with equivalent effect, and to display energy performance certificates in building sale or rental advertisements. The Directive also requires all new buildings to be near zero energy by 2020 (2018 for public buildings)[1]. The Energy Efficiency Directive requires countries to set indicative targets for reducing their energy consumption and, within this context, to pursue the renovation of at least 3 % of buildings owned and occupied by central government annually and draw up long-term plans for renovation strategies of buildings[2]. The Energy Labelling Directive aims to encourage producers and consumers to favour more energy-efficient appliances, while the Ecodesign Directive sets minimum standards for a growing number of appliances and other energy-related products.

Figure 1 shows that the final energy consumption of households in the EU has been declining by 11 % over the 2005–2015 period examined (see also EEA, 2017a). Space heating accounts for approximately two thirds of energy used by households in the EU. The observed high consumption in Figure 1 for the years 2005, 2010 and 2013, for example, was mainly because of colder winters. Similarly the low consumption for the years 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2015, for example, was because of milder winters (EEA, 2016). The increase of 4 % in 2015 is mainly because of a slightly colder winter compared with 2014 — albeit still the third warmest winter in the 2005-2015 period.

Figure 1. Final energy consumption in the households sector, EU

During the 2005-2015 period, energy efficiency policies have led to reductions in energy consumption, while lifestyle changes have had the opposite effect. Energy efficiency improvements in space heating and the use of more efficient electrical appliances, as well as behavioural changes driven by higher energy prices and the 2008 economic downturn all contributed to reductions in overall energy consumption in the household sector. Increases in the number of appliances, average size of dwellings, number of dwellings and level of comfort partially offset these efficiency improvements (EEA, 2017b).

Energy efficiency improvements for space heating occurred as a result of the improved energy performance of buildings and the increased efficiency of heating equipment. In 2013, a number of EU regulations on labelling and ecodesign for space heating equipment were introduced and they are expected to result in further reductions in energy consumption in the residential sector and, consequently, a reduction in the associated environmental impacts (JRC, 2016). 

Improvements in the energy efficiency of large appliances is driven by EU directives on mandatory energy labelling and ecodesign. The share of the most efficient appliances (A+, A++ or, more recently, A+++) in total sales has increased significantly: from 10 % in 2005 to 96 % in 2014 for refrigerators, and from 16.5 % to 90 % for washing machines (EEA, 2016).

On 25 February 2015, the Commission adopted 'A framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy' (EC, 2015). This Energy Union strategy framework creates the momentum to bring about a transition to a low-carbon, secure and competitive energy system along five closely related and mutually reinforcing dimensions: security of supply, a fully integrated energy market, energy efficiency, climate change, and research and innovation. As part of the Energy Union strategy the European Commission proposed in December 2016 revised energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings directives that reinforce and extend in scope the existing directives. 

Looking to 2020, the proposed directives, and in particular the proposed energy efficiency targets for 2030, should help to keep the momentum towards increasing energy efficiency and lead to further reductions in the energy consumption of households.

Country Level Information

Figure 2 shows the per capita household energy consumption in the EU in 2005 compared with 2015.

Energy use in the household sector differs widely between countries because of weather conditions, the state and age of the building stock and household appliances, the average size of the dwellings, the heating/cooling systems used, behaviour (particularly with respect to cooking) and level of implementation of energy efficiency measures. In 2015, per capita energy consumption in the household sector ranged from 0.9 tonnes of oil equivalent per capita (toe/capita) in Spain and Latvia to 0.2 toe/capita in Portugal and Luxembourg. 

Figure 2. Final energy consumption households per capita, 2015

Outlook beyond 2020

Energy use in households accounts for about one quarter of all the energy used in the EU. Therefore reductions in household energy consumption are necessary if Europe is to achieve the low-carbon growth envisaged in the long-term vision of the 7th EAP.

The proposed revised directives on energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings, and more broadly the Energy Union process, should drive further reductions in the energy consumption of households. This includes the proposed 30 % binding energy efficiency target for the EU as a whole by 2030. It also includes the Heating and Cooling Strategy (EC, 2016c) that should help reduce the energy consumption of households and their impact on the environment by promoting the increased use of district heating and better integration of renewable energy sources.

In the long run, the environmental impacts of housing will depend not only on the enforcement of the policy measures and goals that have been set, but also on life style choices (e.g. in terms of living space, consumption patterns, etc). This would, inter alia, depend on whether more possibilities for pursuing sustainable solutions would continue to be available to people, entrepreneurs and local authorities.

For example, reducing energy consumption in existing buildings presents a major challenge as the turnover of the building stock is slow. Progress can be achieved by making better use of climate finance and revenues from energy taxation, for example, to support large-scale renovation and local authorities, and by encouraging changes in consumer behaviour through the creation of framework conditions that can better enable the consumer to participate in the energy market (OpenExp, 2016).

About the indicator

Figure 1 represents final energy consumption by households at EU level. This is the total energy consumed each year by the household sector. It excludes energy lost in the production and transport of the energy to households, as well as the energy consumption of household members for transport. Figure 2 represents the per capita energy consumption of the household sector by country.

Footnotes and references

[1] In order to reinforce and modernise the EPBD, the European Commission proposed in 2016 a revised EPBD (EC, 2016a). The proposed directive encourages the use of information and communication and other modern technologies, including building automation and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, to ensure buildings operate efficiently. The proposed revised directive streamlines or deletes provisions that have not delivered the expected output and supports further and deeper building renovation with a view to decarbonising the building stock by mid-century.

[2] In 2016, the European Commission proposed a revised Energy Efficiency Directive (EC, 2016b). The proposed revision reinforces measures in the existing directive, for example on improving metering and billing of energy consumption for heating and cooling consumers. It also proposes energy efficiency targets for 2030 including extending beyond 2020 the energy saving obligation.


EC, 2015, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank 'A framework strategy for a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy' (COM(2015) 080 final).

EC, 2016a, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings, (COM (2016) 765 final),, accessed 12 June 2017.

EC, 2016b, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency, (COM (2016) 761 final),, accessed 12 June 2017.

EC, 2016c, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions 'An EU strategy on heating and cooling' (COM(2016) 51 final) ( accessed 2 May 2017.

EEA, 2016, 'Global and European temperature (CSI 012)' European Environment Agency ( accessed 14 June 2017.

EEA, 2017a, forthcoming, 'Final energy consumption by sector (CSI 016)', European Environment Agency.

EEA, 2017b, forthcoming, 'Progress on energy efficiency in Europe (ENER 037)', European Environment Agency.

EU, 2009, Directive 2009/125/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products (OJ L 285, 31.10.2009, p. 172–197).

EU, 2010a, Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings (recast) (OJ L 153, 18.6.2010, p. 124–146).

EU, 2010b, Directive 2010/30/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the indication by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by energy-related products (OJ L 153, 18.6.2010, p. 1–12).

EU, 2012, 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 (OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 1–56).

EU, 2013, Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 'Living well, within the limits of our planet', Annex A, paragraph 43 (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 171–200).

JRC, 2016, Energy consumption and energy efficiency trends in the EU-28 2000–2014 ( accessed 12 June 2017.

ODYSSEE, 2016, 'Key indicators' database ( accessed 2 May 2017.

OpenExp, 2016, 'Energy transition of the EU building stock: Unleashing the 4th Industrial Revolution in Europe' ( accessed 2 May 2017.


AIRS briefings

AIRS_PO2.10, 2017, Food consumption — animal based products, European Environment Agency.

AIRS_PO2.9, 2017, Transport greenhouse gas emissions, European Environment Agency.


Environmental indicator report 2017 – In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme, EEA report No21/2017, European Environment Agency


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