Indicator Assessment

Primary energy consumption by fuel in Europe

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-1-en
  Also known as: ENER 026
Published 31 Jan 2020 Last modified 11 May 2021
14 min read
This page was archived on 09 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)
  • The EU's primary energy consumption in 2017 was 9 % lower than in 2005, a trend which will continue in 2018 based on EEA's preliminary estimates.
  • The share of all non-renewable fuels in EU primary energy consumption has decreased between 2005 and 2017, while the share of renewable fuels has significantly increased over the same period.
  • Still, the EU's primary energy consumption rose above the indicative trajectory set by the EEA to monitor progress towards the 2020 energy efficiency targets, a trend which is expected to continue also in 2018. Therefore, achieving the 2020 targets is increasingly uncertain.
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Primary energy consumption by fuel type

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Primary energy consumption and linear trajectory levels to reach 2020 targets, 2017 and 2018

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The EU's primary energy consumption was 9 % lower than in 2005 [1]. Preliminary estimates from the EEA show that, in 2018, the EU's primary energy consumption decreased by 0.9 % compared with 2017, following three consecutive years of increasing consumption. This decrease was caused by various factors, in particular energy efficiency improvements, an increase in the share of energy consumed from hydro, wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) power, the economic recession and changing climate conditions [2].

In 2017, the share of oil accounted for 31.6 % in primary energy consumption in the EU Member States, followed by natural gas (24.4 %), renewable energy (14.8 %), coal/lignite (14.4 %) and nuclear energy (13.4 %).

 Trends by fuel type, 2005-2017

  • The share of coal and lignite in EU primary energy consumption decreased from 18.0 % in 2005 to 14.4 % in 2017. Since 2005, the absolute consumption of coal and lignite in the EU decreased by 27 % (2.6 % per year). Coal is mostly used for electricity generation. The use of coal has decreased partly because of the increase in electricity generation from renewable sources, national policies and energy market developments.
  • The share of natural gas in EU primary energy consumption was 25.0 % in 2005 and 24.4 % in 2017. In the period 2005-2014, the absolute consumption of gas in the EU decreased by 23.6 % (2.9 % per year). However, in the period 2014-2017, the consumption of gas increased again by 16.6 % (5.2 % per year). Various factors have affected operations of gas-fired power plants, which ran continuously (base-load) in the past, but which now tend to operate more often during peak-load times, thereby reducing yearly operating hours. Among these factors are the stagnation of electricity demand following the economic crisis of 2008, the rapid increase in the production of electricity from renewable sources (solar, wind and hydro power) and the low price of coal relative to gas combined with low carbon dioxide (CO2) prices in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). However, since 2015, gas-fired power plants have regained their competitiveness compared with coal-fired plants, because of national policies such as carbon pricing for electricity production (France and the United Kingdom) and increasing coal prices [3, 4].
  • The share of oil (crude oil and petroleum products) in EU primary energy consumption decreased from 33.9 % in 2005 to 31.6 % in 2017. Since 2005, the absolute consumption of fossil oil in the EU decreased by 15 % (1.3 % per year).  Several factors contributed to this decline: the increase in the use of biofuels in the transport sector, high oil prices for some periods within the observation period of 2005-2017, the economic downturn and energy efficiency improvements in cars, partly driven by EU regulations on CO2 emissions from cars and vans. However, there was an increasing trend in oil consumption between 2014 and 2017 in the EU, probably influenced by the recovery following the economic recession.
  • The share of nuclear energy in EU primary energy consumption decreased from 15.0 % in 2005 to 13.4 % in 2017. Since 2005, the absolute consumption of nuclear energy in the EU decreased by 18 % (1.7 % per year). This is because several nuclear power plants have been shut down in recent years in Europe.
  • The share of renewable energy in EU primary energy consumption more than doubled, from 7.2 % in 2005 to 14.8 % in 2017, with a steady increasing trend. Since 2005, the absolute consumption of renewable energy in the EU increased by 78 % (5.5 % per year). This growth has been stimulated by national and European policies to promote the use of renewable energy, such as feed-in tariffs and premiums, obligations for electricity producers, and obligations for using renewables in transport fuel.

 Current progress towards energy efficiency targets

In accordance with the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), the EU Member States have set up national indicative targets that, collectively, should help the EU to reach its 20 % energy efficiency target by 2020. For primary energy consumption, the targets range from a 20.5 % reduction (United Kingdom) to a 28.6 % increase (Estonia) compared with 2005 levels. A total of 18 Member States reduced (or limited the increase in) their primary energy consumption  to levels below their corresponding linear trajectories in 2017, while 10 did not.

Still, the 2017 primary energy consumption levels were 2 % above the indicative linear trajectory. Furthermore, preliminary EEA estimates of primary  energy consumption in 2018 indicate levels that continue to exceed the indicative trajectory to the 2020 targets, at 2.2 % above the linear trajectory. Therefore, achieving the 2020 targets is increasingly uncertain [5].



[1] Energy produced from hydro, wind and solar PV power is measured as energy produced in final form (electricity), as opposed to electricity generation from non-renewable sources for which conversion losses occur. Hence, an increase in the share of energy production from these sources leads to a reduction in primary energy consumption.

[2] European energy and transport — trends to 2030 — update 2007, European Commission.

[3] Agora Energiewende and Sandbag, 2018, The European power sector in 2017: State of affairs and review of current developments.

[4] Deloitte, 2018, 'Profitability of gas-fired power plants in Europe: Is the storm behind us?', Newsletter Power & Utilities, April 2018, pp. 15-18.

[5] Trends and projections in Europe 2019 - Tracking progress towards Europe's climate and energy target, EEA Report 15/2019

Supporting information

Indicator definition

Primary energy consumption is defined as gross inland energy consumption minus the energy consumed for purposes other than producing useful energy (non-energy use, e.g. oil for plastics). Gross inland energy consumption represents the energy necessary to satisfy the inland energy consumption of a country. Gross inland energy consumption is calculated as follows: primary production + recovered products + total imports + variations of stocks - total exports - bunkers. The numbers here are slightly higher than those reported by Eurostat, as Eurostat's numbers do not include ambient heat from heat pumps and the transformation output of blast furnaces.


Energy consumption is measured in million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe).


Policy context and targets

Context description

Environmental context

The level, evolution and structure of primary energy consumption provide an indication of the extent to which environmental pressures caused by energy production and consumption are likely to diminish or not. This indicator displays data disaggregated by fuel type, as the associated environmental impacts are fuel specific.

The consumption of fossil fuels (such as crude oil, oil products, hard coal, lignite, and natural and derived gases) leads to resource depletion and emissions of greenhouse gases as well as emissions of air pollutants (e.g. sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides). This, in turn, has negative consequences for public health and biodiversity. The degree of environmental impact depends on the relative share of different fossil fuels and the extent to which pollution abatement measures are used. Natural gas, for instance, has approximately 40 % less carbon than coal per unit of energy content, and 25 % less carbon content than oil, and contains only marginal quantities of sulphur.

Increasing the consumption of nuclear energy at the expense of fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gas emission reductions, but comes with safety and nuclear waste issues.

Renewable energy consumption is more environmentally benign, as the exploitation of renewable energy sources does not give rise to greenhouse gas emissions (except land use change issues related to biomass and emissions related to the use of non-renewable energy during the construction of renewable energy installations). Renewable energy sources usually lead to significantly lower levels of air pollutants (except when related to biomass applications). Renewable energy can, however, affect landscapes and ecosystems (e.g. wind turbines severely affect the landscape and much land is needed for the production of biomass, which may have an impact on biodiversity).


Policy context

  • The Energy Efficiency Directive (Directive (EU) 2018/2002) — amending Directives 2012/27/EU, 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU, and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency. This directive puts forward a binding EU-wide 32.5 % energy savings target for 2030, following on from the existing 20 % target by 2020.
  • Council Directive 2013/12/EU — Council Directive 2013/12/EU of 13 May 2013 adapting Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on energy efficiency, by reason of the accession of the Republic of Croatia.
  • Directive (EU) 2018/844 — amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency.
  • COM(2015) 80 final — the Energy Union Package — 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) 80 final, 25 February 2015). The Energy Union Package establishes a framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate policy. It includes a roadmap that sets actions for security of supply, the internal energy market, energy efficiency, greenhouse gases, and research and innovation.  
  • COM(2011) 112 — A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050With its 'Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050', the European Commission is looking beyond the 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95 % by the middle of the 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.
  • COM(2014) 330 final — Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council 'European Energy Security Strategy' (COM(2014) 330 final, 28 May 2014). This describes the EU strategy to ensure that energy supplies are uninterrupted and energy prices remain stable.


Directive (EU) 2018/2002 on energy efficiency puts forward a binding EU-wide 32.5 % energy savings target for 2030, following on from the previously set 20 % target by 2020. Member States are requested to set indicative targets. The EU target for 2020 is to limit primary energy consumption to 1 483 Mtoe. In 2018, taken together, the sum of all individual Member States' 2020 targets for primary energy consumption was 1 533 Mtoe, which is 3.3 % higher than the 2020 target defined for the EU under the Energy Efficiency Directive (1 483 Mtoe). The 2030 targets are expressed in primary and/or final energy consumption and are relative to the levels projected for 2030 of 1 887 Mtoe for primary energy consumption and 1 416 Mtoe for final energy consumption. A 32.5 % reduction would therefore result in primary energy consumption of 1 273 Mtoe and final energy consumption of 956 Mtoe in 2030.

Related policy documents

  • COM(2015) 80 final - A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy
    Energy Union Package, 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) 80 final, 25 February 2015. Energy Union Package establishes a Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Policy. 


Methodology for indicator calculation

Technical information

  1. Geographical coverage
    The EEA had 33 member countries at the time of writing this indicator. These are the 28 EU Member States  plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
  2. Methodology and frequency of data collection
    Data are collected annually.
    Eurostat definitions for energy statistics:
  3. Methodology of data manipulation
    The average annual rate of growth is calculated using the following: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) - 1] × 100.
  4. Coding (used in the Eurostat database) and specific components of the indicator
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — All products
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Solid fuels
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Total petroleum products
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Gas
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Nuclear heat
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Electrical energy
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Derived heat
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Renewable energies
    • GIC — Gross inland consumption — Waste (non-renewable)
    • FC_NE — Final non-energy consumption — All products
    • FC_NE — Final non-energy consumption — Solid fuels
    • FC_NE — Final non-energy consumption — Total petroleum products
    • FC_NE — Final non-energy consumption — Gas
    • FC_NE — Final non-energy consumption — Renewable energies

     These data are extracted from Eurostat nrg_bal_c data sets.

Qualitative information

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling necessary.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

The proportion of a particular fuel in total energy consumption could decrease even if the actual amount of energy derived from that fuel increased, as the proportion of a particular fuel depends on its consumption relative to total energy consumption.

From an environmental point of view, however, the relative contribution of each fuel type has to be considered in the wider context. Absolute (as opposed to relative) volumes of energy consumption for each fuel are the key to understanding environmental pressures. These depend on the total amount of energy consumed, as well as on the fuel mix used and the extent to which pollution abatement technologies are used.

Gross inland energy consumption may not accurately represent the energy needs of a country in terms of final energy demand. Fuel switching may, in some cases, have a significant effect on gross inland energy consumption even if there is no change in final energy demand. 

Data sets uncertainty

Officially reported, annually updated data are used, with no obvious weaknesses.

However, from 2019, Eurostat changed the methodology for calculating energy balances, which changed the energy consumption data compared with previous years. Therefore, this year’s results and those of previous years are less comparable. More information on these changes can be found in the Energy balance guide ( and in a document online (

Data have traditionally been compiled by Eurostat through the annual joint questionnaires of 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 on Eurostat's web page for metadata on energy statistics (

In circumstances where data for one or more of the non-EU EEA countries are unavailable, these data are left out of total amounts for non-EU EEA countries or for EEA countries as a whole.

Rationale uncertainty

The composition of the energy mix in gross inland energy consumption provides an indication of the environmental pressures associated with energy consumption. The type and magnitude of the environmental impacts associated with energy consumption, such as resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutant emissions, water pollution, accumulation of radioactive waste, etc., strongly depend on the types and amounts of fuel consumed, as well as on the abatement technologies applied.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • ENER 026
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
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Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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