Electricity consumption, energy efficiency and ownership of household appliances

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-363-en
Also known as: SCP 023
Created 11 Dec 2014 Last modified 04 Sep 2015
10 min read
Total household electricity consumption in EU-28 has increased by around 32 % between 1990 and 2011, although consumption appears to have peaked in 2010 at which point the increase compared to 1990 was 39 %. The total electricity consumption of large appliances (washing machines, dish washers, refrigerators, freezers and dryers) has increased by only 6 % over the same time: improvements in energy efficiency of large household appliances have helped to reduce growth in energy consumption of these appliances, despite a significant increase in the stock of these appliances.  The improvements in energy efficiency of other appliances (for example, TV sets, computers) have not been sufficient to offset the increasing stock of these appliances  - electricity consumption of other appliances jumped 156 % over the period - and this is the main driver for the steady increase in the total household electricity consumption in the EU-28.

Key messages

Total household electricity consumption in EU-28 has increased by around 32 % between 1990 and 2011, although consumption appears to have peaked in 2010 at which point the increase compared to 1990 was 39 %. The total electricity consumption of large appliances (washing machines, dish washers, refrigerators, freezers and dryers) has increased by only 6 % over the same time: improvements in energy efficiency of large household appliances have helped to reduce growth in energy consumption of these appliances, despite a significant increase in the stock of these appliances.  The improvements in energy efficiency of other appliances (for example, TV sets, computers) have not been sufficient to offset the increasing stock of these appliances  - electricity consumption of other appliances jumped 156 % over the period - and this is the main driver for the steady increase in the total household electricity consumption in the EU-28.

Is the stock of household appliances becoming more efficient and is this leading to a reduction in household energy consumption?

Final household electricity consumption by use

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Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Trend in energy efficiency and number of selected electrical appliances in households

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Total electricity consumption in households in the EU-28 has increased by around 32 % from 1990 to 2011, although consumption appears to have peaked in 2010 at which point the increase compared to 1990 was 39 %.  Figure 1 illustrates that the majority of this increase is due to a rise in electricity consumption by appliances other than large appliances.  Electricity consumption of five large household appliances (refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers) has only increased by around 6 % over the same period, while energy consumption of other appliances has increased by around 156 % over the period. In fact, these other appliances are responsible for 67 % of the total increase in household electricity consumption between 1990 and 2011.  The category other appliances includes home entertainment appliances, computers, phones and all types of electronic gadgets, but also air conditioning units (in fact, it includes all residential electricity use not explicitly included in one of the other categories). Increasing stocks, driven by fast technical development and decrease of prices of these goods seem to be the primary driver for the observed increase in household electricity consumption (EEA, 2014). 

For all three selected appliances in Figure 2 (refrigerators, washing machines and TVs), energy efficiency has improved. However, this does not necessarily mean electricity consumption has decreased, as the numbers of appliances in households have continuously increased. For televisions, it is important to note that efficiencies per unit screen area have indeed improved; average screen sizes, however, have also increased, leading to an overall decrease in energy efficiency per average TV (International Energy Agency, 2008). 

The energy efficiency of washing machines and refrigerators has increased by approximately 30 % and 33 % respectively between 1990 and 2011. These improvements have been consistent throughout the time period. The first Energy Labelling Directive, which was adopted in 1992, has contributed to these improvements, and similar developments are likely to be seen in other appliances covered by the Directive,  such as freezers, air conditioning units etc. as well as light bulbs. 

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

This indicator presents  trends in consumption of electricity in households, and in the efficiency and stock of three key appliances in the EU-28. The use of electricity in households for different types of end uses is shown in figure 1, while figure 2 shows energy consumption, average specific energy consumption (efficiency) and total stock of key household appliances, and trends in total electricity consumption for all appliances in the EU28. 

Units

Figure 1 - Expressed in million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe)

Figure 2 - Expressed as indices of the values of the specific energy consumption of three types of household appliances, the stocks of those appliances and total household electricity consumption for all appliances, indexed to 1990.


Policy context and targets

Context description

The wish for a rapid transfer of new technology into buildings and appliances is the basis for the Ecodesign Directive which was amended in 2009 to include energy-related products such as windows and insulation materials. The Directive states that ‘In the interest of sustainable development, continuous improvement in the overall environmental impact of those products should be encouraged’.  The EcoDesign Directive is supported by the Energy Labelling Directive that introduced an EU-wide energy labelling scheme for household appliances and is being expanded to other energy using products i.e. TVs (2010).

This indicator considers the extent to which any efficiency gains made through technological advancements in building design and appliances are offset by changing behaviour, for example, increased living space demand, and increased use and ownership of appliances. Although no policy with direct relevance to the building design and appliances has been identified concerning such rebound effects, the general need to ensure that consumption behaviour does not offset gains from technology is recognised in the Resource Efficiency Flagship’s call to ‘empower consumers to move to resource-efficient consumption to ….ensure that efficiency gains are not lost’.

The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe includes the area of Improving products and changing consumption patterns, which is of particular relevance to household appliances, including the milestone that by 2020 ‘citizens and public authorities have the right incentives to choose the most resource efficient products and services, through appropriate price signals and clear environmental information. Their purchasing choices will stimulate companies to innovate and to supply more resource efficient goods and services. Minimum environmental performance standards are set to remove the least resource efficient and most polluting products from the market.’

The EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme reinforces the objectives of the Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe, stating that ‘measures will be taken to further improve the environmental performance of goods and services on the Union market over their whole life cycle including measures to increase the supply of environmentally sustainable products and stimulate a significant shift in consumer demand for such products’, and that ‘targets for reducing the overall lifecycle environmental impact of consumption will be set, in particular in the food, housing and mobility sectors’.


Targets

No targets have been set.

Related policy documents

  • 7th Environment Action Programme
    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’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
  • 2009/125/EC - Ecodesign Directive
    The Ecodesign Directive is a framework Directive: it does not set binding requirements on products by itself, but through  implementing measures  adopted on a case by case basis for each product group. All guiding principles for developing implementing measures are set in the  framework Directive 2009/125/EC . The list of product groups to be addressed through implementing measures is established in the periodic  Working Plan .  Standardisation  supports the implementation of the Ecodesign Directive (notably through harmonised standards giving presumption of conformity with all or some Ecodesign legal requirements).
  • A resource-efficient Europe
    A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth. Natural resources underpin our economy and our quality of life. Continuing our current patterns of resource use is not an option. Increasing resource efficiency is key to securing growth and jobs for Europe. It will bring major economic opportunities, improve productivity, drive down costs and boost competitiveness.  The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe provides a long-term framework for actions in many policy areas, supporting policy agendas for climate change, energy, transport, industry, raw materials, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity and regional development. This is to increase certainty for investment and innovation and to ensure that all relevant policies factor in resource efficiency in a balanced manner.
  • Directive 2010/30/EU 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
    Energy labeling directive
  • Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe COM(2011) 571
    Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.  COM(2011) 571  

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Figure 1 comprises data for household electricity consumption disaggregated into six final use categories: space heating, water heating, cooking, lighting, large appliances (refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer), and other appliances (TV, air conditioning units, among others).  Raw data was used for space heating, water heating, cooking, lighting and large appliances.  The data for “other appliances” is calculated by subtracting the value for “lighting” and for “large appliances” from that for “total appliances and lighting”.

Figure 2 comprises seven trend lines indexed to 100 in 1990, the calculation of which are described below:

  • Stock of TVs, washing machines and refrigerators: raw data from ODYSSEE Enerdata database indexed to 1990
  • Specific consumption of TVs, washing machines and refrigerators: raw data from ODYSSEE Enerdata database indexed to 1990
  • Total electricity consumption of all appliances: raw data from ODYSSEE Enerdata database for electricity consumption of “appliances and lighting” minus the electricity consumption for “lighting”.  Indexed to 1990.

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling is necessary for producing this indicator from the data extracted from the Odyssee database.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the methodology used by the EEA to process the source data.

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty information has been provided by the publishers of the source data. However, it is reasonable to expect a level of uncertainty in the raw data on the disaggregation of electricity consumption.

Rationale uncertainty

This indicator only considers changes in stock and efficiency improvements of a few (though important) electrical appliances.  Data on freezers and dishwashers is also available, but these have been omitted for the sake of clarity. It would be interesting to further disaggregate the “other appliances” category, but this is not currently possible.

This indicator uses total stocks of appliances, and data for average specific consumption based on average use patterns of that stock as a proxy for consumption.  This assumption of average use patters does not allow for changes in use patters (changes in consumption behaviour) post-purchase.

Data sources

Metadata

Topics:

information.png Tags:
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DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • SCP 023
Temporal coverage:

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 2 years

EEA Contact Info

Almut Reichel
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