Indicator Assessment

Final energy consumption in Europe by mode of transport

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-113-en
  Also known as: TERM 001
Published 10 Jan 2011 Last modified 11 May 2021
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For the first time since 1990, annual transport energy consumption in the EEA member countries fell, by 0.8%.  This reflects the downturn in demand for transport caused by the early stages of the economic recession. Specifically, in 2008 annual declines in road, inland shipping and bunkering (sea) energy consumption outweighed increases in rail and aviation transport consumption. However, the fall does not change the long term picture which shows an increase of 36% between 1990 and 2008. Road transport, responsible for 71 % of transport energy consumption, remains the largest consumer. 

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Transport final energy consumption by mode

Note: The total energy consumption in transport in Mtoe from 1990 onwards. Transport modes included are bunkers (sea), air transport (domestic and international), inland navigation, rail transport and road transport (split by passenger and freight).

Data source:

Eurostat, Supply, transformation, consumption - all products, 
Eurostat, Supply, transformation, consumption - solid fuels,
Eurostat, Supply, transformation, consumption - oil,
Eurostat, Supply, transformation, consumption – gas,
Eurostat, Supply, transformation, consumption – Electricity,
Eurostat, Supply, transformation, consumption – renewable(biofuels),

[data accessed 1 September 2010]

Between 1990 and 2008, energy consumption from transport grew by over a third. Whilst there have been improvements in energy efficiency - for example, the average energy efficiency of passenger cars improved by 1.7% between 2006 and 2007 (Transport and Environment, 2008) - such advancements have failed to offset growth in demand. The continued growth of road and air transport, which are comparatively energy intensive, has also contributed to the overall increase. However, in 2008 overall energy consumption from transport decreased for the first time in the period shown. This is largely due to a reduction in demand for transport, probably caused by the global economic recession. This decrease in energy consumption is unlikely to be sustained: the latest projections for the EU-27 predict that economic recovery will prompt a return to growth in transport energy consumption before 2015, with growth continuing until at least 2020 (albeit at a reduced rate, as policies designed to reduce transport energy use begin to take effect). Transport demand is expected to grow faster than energy consumption, in other words the energy intensity of transport will decrease (European Commission, 2010).

The EEA 32 countries[1] consumed approximately 458 Mtoe providing energy for transport in 2008. The vast majority, 83%, is consumed by the original 15 Member States, with 10% consumed by the new 12 Member States and the remainder by other EEA countries.

The 12 new EU Member States have collectively increased consumption by 64% since 1990; however this figure covers a more complicated picture. Many of the new member states saw a decline in the early nineties, reflecting the economic difficulties experienced in the transition to market economies and the general economic depression at that time. Iceland, Lithuania and Estonia actually ended up consuming less energy in 2008 than in 1990, meanwhile the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia recovered to more than double their energy consumption over the same period. Further, almost solely through increases in shipping activity (bunker fuels), Malta has nearly quadrupled its transport energy consumption.

Until falling 1.3% in 2008,  transport energy consumption of the 15 old EU Member States had grown steadily since 1990. This demonstrates the severity of the recession impacts, with 11 of the EU 15 experiencing a decline in transport energy demand in 2008. However, from a longer term perspective, average consumption for the EU-15 as a whole is now 32% higher than it was in 1990. Ireland and Luxembourg grew most dramatically, increasing in excess of 150% over the period. Spain and Portugal have increased consumption by nearly 90%, while Belgium and Austria are not too far behind.

Road transport energy consumption has increased in both the old and the new EU Member States, by 32% and 63% respectively. These figures suggest that modes which require longer-term planning and more dedicated infrastructure than road transport are less popular for supporting fast economic development. The lack of goods transport by sea may also be a result of their geographical location, with fewer major ports currently in the EU 12 than in the EU15.

Air transport shows the strongest growth in energy consumption of all modes over the last 18 years (87% in EEA member countries), linked to the strong increase in demand. However, the rate of increase fell notably between 2004 and 2006, and again between 2007 and 2008, suggesting the first year on year fall in energy consumption since 2001 could be imminent.

The low share of rail is partly due to a relatively small modal share, but also because in most situations rail transport is less energy-intensive than the main competitors. EEA wide, rail and inland navigation were the only two modes to increase their rates of change of energy consumption in 2008, in the midst of recession. This was caused by increases in the rates of change in both rail and inland navigation in the EU-15, outweighing decreasing rates of change in the EU-12.

The energy consumption from inland water transport for the whole of the EU remained more or less constant during the 1990s followed by a decline mainly due to the reduced importance of bulk industries, which dominated demand for inland shipping. However, recent years have seen a return to use of inland waterways, particularly in the EU-15, bringing 2008 energy consumption back up to just 7% below the 1990 level in the EEA member countries.

Road, air and sea travel (bunkering) all had declining rates of change in the most recent years as a result of the recession. Because these modes are the most prominent, overall transport energy consumption levelled off in the three years building up to the recession.

Across the EEA member countries energy consumption in maritime transport (i.e. ‘bunkers’) has grown by 51% since 1990, primarily used in the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

Besides the overall trend, there are considerable variations between countries, although road transport in nearly all cases dominates energy consumption. Differences are likely due to geographical and topographical constraints such as settlement and transport patterns, as well as economic development.

Additional policies that reduce the demand for transport, encourage modal shift towards more environmentally-friendly modes, improve transport management and enhance vehicles’ energy efficiency are required in order to meet targets set by the Kyoto protocol. Policies that focus only on the efficiency of vehicles will not be sufficient to overcome the dependency on road transport, as they may reduce the cost of transport movements, hence causing increased demand, via the so-called rebound effect (European Commission, 2009).

[1] Excluding Lichtenstein – no data available.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator considers total energy consumption in transport in PJ from 1990 onwards. The transport modes included are bunkers (sea transport), air transport (domestic and international), inland navigation, rail transport and road transport.


In this indicator, transport energy consumption is measured in terajoules (1 TJ = 1012 joules).


Policy context and targets

Context description

Reductions in fuel consumption in the transport sector, and/or reductions of related impacts, may be achieved via three primary means:

  • Avoid: reduce transport demand by limiting the number of trips and their length.
  • Shift: shift to more fuel-efficient transport modes.
  • Improve: increase the energy efficiency of vehicles and their energy sources. This includes fuel switching, i.e. changing to renewable or low-carbon fuels such as sustainable biofuels, or using renewable technologies for electric or fuel cell vehicles.

Although climate policy and the Kyoto Protocol are important drivers of reducing fossil fuel consumption (and air quality policy to a lesser extent), this indicator is primarily concerned with energy policy. Other related issues are addressed in TERM002 (Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe), TERM003 (Emissions of air pollutants from transport) and TERM031 (Use of renewable fuels in transport in Europe).


The EU has set itself the following targets:

  • By 2020, there should be a 30 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, in the context of a global agreement, and a 20 % unilateral reduction.
  • The EU's Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 calls for an 80 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as a global action to prevent climate change (Decision No 406/2009/EC).

If the 2030 policy framework, proposed in January 2014, is accepted, these targets will be built upon. Additional targets — which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % by 2030 and increase the proportion of energy that is renewable by at least 27 %, also by 2030 — will be set. Improvements in energy efficiency are still encouraged (as part of the '20-20-20' target to increase energy efficiency by 20 % by 2020), but no new target has been proposed (EC, 2014).

Two key documents published by the European Commission in 2011 outline possible strategies for the transport sector, which are compatible with the 2050 target. These are the Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 (EC, 2011) and the third decennial Transport White Paper, Roadmap to a single European transport area — Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system (EC, 2011).

The impact assessment that accompanied the 2011 Transport White Paper (EC, 2011) suggests that a 70 % reduction in oil consumption in transport from 2008 levels should be achieved by 2050.

Related policy documents

  • COM (2008) 11
    First assessment of national energy efficiency plans as required by Directive 2006/32/EC on energy end-use efficiency and energy services – Moving towards together on energy efficiency
  • COM(2006) 545
    Action Plan for Energy Efficiency
  • COM(2007) 19
    Results of the review of the Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles.
  • COM(2010) 2020 final, Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
    European Commission, 2010. Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. COM(2010) 2020 final. 
  • COM(2011) 21
    A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy
  • COM(2011) 112 - A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050
    With its "Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050" the European Commission is looking beyond these 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-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(2011) 144 Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system
  • COM(2014) 15 final A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030
    Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030". 22 January 2014, COM(2014) 15 final; {SWD(2014) 15 final}, {SWD(2014) 16 final}.  This Communication p resents an integrated policy framework with binding EU-wide targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions and the development of renewable energy sources and with objectives for energy efficiency improvements for the period up to 2030.
  • Decision No 406/2009/EC (Effort Sharing Decision)
    Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020
  • DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC
  • Directive 2009/29/EC
    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 2009/30/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2009/30/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 93/12/EEC
    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.
  • REGULATION (EC) No 661/2009
    REGULATION (EC) No 661/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL concerning type-approval requirements for the general safety of motor vehicles, their trailers and systems, components and separate technical units intended therefor
  • Regulation (EU) 2018/842
    REGULATION (EU) 2018/842 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 May 2018 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement and amending Regulation (EU) No 525/2013.
  • REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011
    REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union's integrated approach to reduce CO 2 emissions from light-duty vehicles


Methodology for indicator calculation

Energy statistics for transport are collected from Member States and collated by Eurostat. To assess whether total energy consumption in transport is growing, time series data for energy consumed were obtained from Eurostat. Data for various fuels were downloaded for bunker (sea), air (domestic and international), inland navigation, road and rail transport. Data for bunkers cover the quantities of fuel delivered to sea-going vessels of all countries. Data for inland and coastal waters are not included in bunker (sea) data. Data for air transport cover quantities of fuel consumed in national and international air traffic. Data on the energy consumed by electric and diesel trains are included within rail data. 

Since Eurostat data are used to process statistics, the Eurostat methodology should be referred to for data collection and specification (see Eurostat, ITF and UNECE, 2009).

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling is applied for this indicator.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

Data trends within individual countries are difficult to ascertain, as energy consumption data often show unexpected variability from year to year. Energy consumption is calculated based on fuel sales and a common questionnaire is used to report it.

Data sets uncertainty

National data vary significantly from country to country and depending on the fuel type and production/consumption sector. The most reliable data come from the EU-15 countries. However, oil pipeline data are lacking for the majority of countries, making them less reliable. Occasionally, data used in older time series may change because of revisions in the methodology used. Such changes have resulted in small alterations, of a few per cent.

For the EU-13, data are generally much less reliable. Gaps are frequent, as are conspicuous jumps in consumption (e.g. doubling or more).

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 001
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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