Household energy consumption

Briefing Published 29 Nov 2018 Last modified 26 Nov 2019
9 min read
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EU indicator past trend

Selected objective to be met by 2020

Indicative outlook for 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 between 2005 and 2016. It is, however, uncertain whether household energy consumption will decline during the Seventh Environment Action Programme period (2014-2020) since it increased both in 2015 and 2016.

For further information on the scoreboard methodology please see Box I.3 in the EEA Environmental indicator report 2018

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 8 % between 2005 and 2016. 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 lifestyle changes such as an increasing number of electrical appliances, larger and more homes. Climatic conditions also play an important role in the energy consumption of households. Household energy consumption increased both in 2015 and 2016 mainly because the 2016 winter was slightly colder than that of 2015, which was in turn a bit colder than that of 2014. Lifestyle changes also had an impact. It is uncertain whether the energy consumption of households will decrease during the 7th EAP period (2014-2020) as energy efficiency improvements over this period may not be enough to counteract the opposite effects of lifestyle or weather changes.

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, 2018) and mobility (AIRS_PO2.9, 2018) 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, 2018a), the Energy Labelling Directive (EU, 2010), the Ecodesign Directive (EU, 2009) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EU, 2018b). The EPBD requires, inter alia, all new buildings to be near zero energy by 2020. The provisions of this Directive were strengthened and modernised this year, which will help promote the use of smart technology in buildings and more generally help improve further the energy performance of buildings. The Energy Efficiency Directive sets energy efficiency targets for reducing energy consumption and, in this context, encourages the renovation of the building stock. The provisions of the Directive were reinforced this year in order to achieve higher energy efficiency levels including, for example, improving metering and billing of energy consumption for heating and cooling consumers. 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 declined by 8 % over the 2005–2016 period examined (see also EEA, 2018a). Space heating accounts for approximately two thirds of energy used by households in the EU. A key reason for the observed high consumption in Figure 1 for the years 2005, 2010 and 2013, for example, was that these years had relatively cold winters. Similarly, the low consumption for the years 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2015, was, inter alia, because of relatively mild winters (EEA, 2016, 2018b).

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

During the 2005-2016 period, 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 households sector. Increases in the number of appliances, average size of dwellings and number of dwellings partially offset these improvements (EEA, 2018c).

Household energy consumption increased both in 2015 (by 4 %) and in 2016 (by 3 %) compared with 2014 and 2015 respectively. The relatively colder winters in these two years contributed to these increases (EEA, 2018b). However, lifestyle changes such as more dwellings, more appliances per dwelling, changes in heating behaviour (e.g. higher home temperatures) also contributed. Energy efficiency improvements were not significant enough to counteract these effects. In fact, since 2013 a slow down in the rate of the annual energy efficiency improvement has been observed year-on-year compared with the average annual rate of the 2005-2016 period (Odyssee-Mure, 2018).

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. The strategy triggered, among other things, and as mentioned at the start of this section, the reinforcement in 2018 of the directives on energy performance of buildings and on energy efficiency. However, these initiatives mainly have 2030 or longer term objectives and it is unlikely that the implementation of specific actions will be in place before 2020.

In conclusion, it is uncertain whether the energy consumption of households will decrease over the 7th EAP period (2014-2020). This is because energy efficiency improvements may — similarly to 2015 and in 2016 — not be enough to counteract increases in household energy consumption driven by lifestyle- or weather-related changes. 

Country level information

Figure 2 shows the per capita household energy consumption in the EU countries in 2005 compared with 2016.

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 the level of implementation of energy efficiency measures. In 2016, per capita energy consumption in the household sector of the EU countries ranged from 0.2 tonnes of oil equivalent per capita (toe/capita) in Malta to 1 toe/capita in Finland.  

Figure 2. Per capita final energy consumption of the households sector, by country

Outlook beyond 2020

Energy use in households accounts for about one quarter of all 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 reinforced directives on energy performance of buildings and on energy efficiency that were adopted in 2018, and more broadly the Energy Union process, should drive further reductions in the energy consumption of households. This includes an energy efficiency target of at least 32.5 % for the EU as a whole by 2030. It also includes the Heating and Cooling Strategy (EC, 2016) 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 lifestyle 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 instance, 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

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, 2016, 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 14 February 2018.

EEA, 2016, ‘Heating and cooling degree days (CLIM 047)’ ( accessed 22 November 2018.

EEA, 2018a, forthcoming, 'Final energy consumption by sector and fuel (CSI 027/ENER 016)' ( European Environment Agency.

EEA, 2018b, 'Global and European temperature (CSI 012)' European Environment Agency ( accessed 19 September 2018.

EEA, 2018c, 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, 2010, 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, 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).

EU, 2018a, Directive 2018/844/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency (OJ L 156/75, 19.6.2018, p. 75–91).

EU, 2018b, forthcoming, Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency, Brussels.

JRC, 2016, Energy consumption and energy efficiency trends in the EU-28 2000–2014 ( accessed 14 February 2018.

ODYSSEE-MURE, 2018, 'Decomposition tool' ( accessed 14 February 2018.

OpenExp, 2016, 'Energy transition of the EU building stock: Unleashing the 4th Industrial Revolution in Europe' ( accessed 14 February 2018.


AIRS briefings

AIRS_PO2.9, 2018, Transport greenhouse gas emissions, European Environment Agency.

AIRS_PO2.10, 2018, Food consumption — animal based protein, European Environment Agency.


Environmental indicator report 2018 – In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme, EEA report No19/2018, European Environment Agency


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