Indicator Assessment

Primary energy consumption by fuel

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-1-en
  Also known as: ENER 026
Published 05 Jul 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
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Fossil fuels continue to dominate total energy consumption, but environmental pressures have been reduced, partly due to a significant switch from coal and lignite to relatively cleaner natural gas in the 1990s. The share of renewable energy sources remains small despite an increase in absolute terms. Overall, total primary energy consumption increased by an average of 0.6 % per annum in the EU-27 during the period 1990-2006 (9.9 % overall) thus counteracting some of the environmental benefits from fuel switching. In the last two years total primary energy consumption did not increase.

Total energy consumption by fuel, EU-27, 1990-2006

Note: Total energy consumption by fuel, EU-27, 1990-2006

Data source:

EEA, Eurostat (historic data)

Share of primary energy by fuel and total primary energy consumption, EU-27, 2020 (million TOE)

Note: Table: share of primary energy by fuel and total primary energy consumption, EU-27

Data source:


Primary energy consumption by fuel (%) in 2006

Note: TOE refers to tonnes of oil equivalents

Data source:

European Environment Agency and Eurostat

Total primary energy consumption in the EU-27 increased by 9.9 % between 1990 and 2006. Since 2004 consumption has shown no further increase. Over the same period, the share of fossil fuels, including coal, lignite, oil and natural gas, in primary energy consumption declined slightly from 83.1 % in 1990 to 78.7 % in 2006, although fossil fuel consumption increased in absolute terms (by more than 4 %). The use of fossil fuels has considerable impact on the environment and is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, changes in the fossil fuel mix have brought environmental benefits. Overall, the share of coal has decreased and coal has been to some extent replaced by relatively cleaner natural gas. However, coal consumption has remained stable since 1999 and gas consumption continued to increase (albeit stabilizing in the last year).

Most of the switching from coal to gas occurred in the power generation sector (but not exclusively). In the pre-2004 EU-15 Member States this was supported by implementation of environmental legislation and liberalisation of electricity markets, which stimulated the use of combined-cycle gas plants due to their high efficiency, low capital cost and low gas prices in the early 1990s, and by the expansion of the trans-EU gas network. Fuel mix changes in the new Member States were induced by the process of economic transformation, which led to changes in fuel prices, taxation, the removal of energy subsidies and introduction of policies to privatise and restructure the energy sector.

Oil accounted for around 37 % of primary energy consumption in 2006 and continues to be the major fuel in the transport sector. Consumption increased at an average annual rate of 0.4 % over the period 1990-2006, mainly as a result of increased demand for petrol and diesel in the transport sector, although this was tempered by a decline in the use of oil in other sectors, such as for power generation.

Renewable energy, which typically has lower environmental impacts than fossil fuels, has seen rapid growth in absolute terms, but from a low starting point. Renewables (together with natural gas) were the fastest growing energy source between 1990 and 2006,  but despite increased support at the EU and national level, their contribution to total primary energy consumption remains low at just 7.1 % in 2006.

The share of nuclear power has remained stable over the last few years, accounting for 14 % of primary energy consumption in 2006. While nuclear power produces little atmospheric pollution during electricity production (although it generates thermic pollution) there is a risk of accidental radioactive releases, and highly radioactive wastes are accumulating for which no generally acceptable disposal route has yet been established.
Changes in the fuel mix have helped reducing otherwise higher greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the production of heat and electricity. However, rising total primary energy consumption in absolute terms (0.6 % per year during 1990-2006) has counteracted some of the environmental benefits of the fuel switch.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

Total energy consumption or gross inland energy consumption represents the quantity of energy necessary to satisfy the inland consumption of a country. It is calculated as the sum of the gross inland consumption of energy from solid fuels, oil, gas, nuclear and renewable sources, and a small component of ‘other’ sources (industrial waste and net imports of electricity). The relative contribution of a specific fuel is measured by the ratio between the energy consumption originating from that specific fuel and the total gross inland energy consumption calculated for a calendar year.


Energy consumption is measured in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). The share of each fuel in total energy consumption is presented in the form of a percentage.


Projections are for 2020-2030 from the POLES (IPTS) Baseline and GHG Reduction Scenario, from the WEO 2009 (IEA) Reference and 450 Stabilization Case and from PRIMES (EC) Baseline and Reference scenarios



Policy context and targets

Context description

Environmental context

The level, the evolution as well as the structure of the total gross inland energy consumption provide an indication of the extent  environmental pressures caused by energy production and consumption are likely to diminish or not. The 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 natural  gas)  has a number of negative effects on the environment and human health , CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution levels (e.g. SO2 and NOX), water pollution and biodiversity loss. These effects are fuel-specific.. For instance, 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 (see Figure 3 below). There are other environmental pressures coming from energy production: air pollution, land –use changes and crop-escape (that could result in large scale introduction of invasive species) from biomass, surface and groundwater pollution, ecosystem services and biodiversity loss, etc. The pressure on the environment and human health from energy consumption can be diminished by decreasing energy consumption and switching to energy sources that have a lower impact on the environment and human health.While nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution over the life cycle compared to conventional sources, there is a risk of accidental radioactive releases, and highly radioactive waste (for which no generally acceptable disposal route has yet been established) is accumulating.

Policy context

A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 (COM(2011) 112 final)
Presents a roadmap for action in line with a 80-95% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050.

Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 (COM(2011) 109 final)
Proposes additional measures to achieve the 20 % primary energy saving target by 2020.

Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy (COM(2010) 639 final)
Energy efficiency is the first of the five priorities of the new energy strategy defined by the Commission.

Council adopted on 6 April 2009 the climate-energy legislative package containing measures to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. This package is designed to achieve the EU's overall environmental target of a 20 % reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 % share of renewable energy in the EU's total energy consumption by 2020.The climate action and renewable energy (CARE) package includes the following main policy documents

  • 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
  • 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 Emission allowance trading within the community
  • 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

Large Combustion Plant Directive; Directive 2001/80/EC
Aims to control emissions of SO2, NOx and particulate matter from large combustion plants (> 50 MW).

Second Strategic Energy Review; COM(2008) 781 final
Strategic review on short, medium and long term targets on EU energy security.

Eco-Design Directive; COM(2008) 778 final/2
Directive on intensification of existing regulation on energy-efficiency of products.

Energy Performance Buildings Directive; Directive 2002/91/EC
The Member States must apply minimum requirements as regards the energy performance of new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of their energy performance and require the regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings.

Energy Performance Buildings Directive (recast); Directive 2010/31/EU
Strengthens the energy performance requirements of the 2002 Directive.

Directive on GHG emissions of fuels and biofuels; COM(2007) 18 final/2
Sets targets for the GHG emissions from different fuel types (e.g. by improving refinery technologies) and allows the blending of up to 10 % of biofuels into diesel and petrol.


Related policy documents



Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology of data manipulation:
Average annual rate of growth calculated using: [(last year/base year) ^ (1/number of years) –1]*100
The coding (used in the Eurostat New Cronos database) and specific components of the indicator are:

  • Numerator: solid fuels 2000 gross inland consumption 100900 + oil 3000 gross inland consumption 100900 + gas 4000 gross inland consumption 100900 + nuclear energy 5100 gross inland consumption 100900 + renewable energies 5500 gross inland consumption 100900 + industrial waste 7100 gross inland consumption + 6000 electrical energy 100900 gross inland consumption.
  • Denominator: (total) gross inland consumption (of energy) 100900

Geographical coverage:
The Agency had 32 member countries at the time of writing of this fact sheet. These are the 27 European Union Member States and Turkey, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Temporal coverage: 1990-2009

Methodology and frequency of data collection:
Data collected annually.
Eurostat definitions for energy statistics

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling necessary

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

The share of energy consumption for a particular fuel could decrease even though the actual amount of energy used from that fuel grows, as the development of the share for a particular fuel depends on the change in its consumption relative to the total consumption of energy.

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

Total 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 in changing total energy consumption even though there is no change in (final) energy demand. This is because different fuels and different technologies convert primary energy into useful energy with different efficiency rates.

Data sets uncertainty

Officially reported data, updated annually. No obvious weaknesses.

Data have been traditionally compiled by Eurostat through the annual Joint Questionnaires, 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.

Rationale uncertainty


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
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage





Filed under:
Filed under: energy, csi
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