Indicator Assessment

Final energy consumption in Europe by mode of transport

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-113-en
  Also known as: TERM 001
Published 24 Jan 2013 Last modified 11 May 2021
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This page was archived on 10 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)

Between 1990 and 2007, annual transport energy consumption in the EU-27 showed continual growth. However, this trend reversed in 2008 as the effects of the economic recession brought about three years of negative growth. Between 2007 and 2009, total energy demand in the transport sector declined by 4.2%. The most recent published data for 2010 indicates a bottoming out of this recent decline with a drop in energy demand between 2009 and 2010 of just 0.3%. Preliminary estimates for 2011 hint on a return to growth in transport energy demand with a minor increase of 0.1% over 2011.

 Outside the EU‑27, over the last decade Switzerland's growth in road transport energy use has been below the EU‑27 average, while its rail energy use has increased compared to an average reduction across the EU‑27. By contrast, Norway and particularly Turkey have seen road transport energy use grow faster than the EU‑27 while Turkey's rail energy use has fallen substantially more than in EU‑27 Member States.

The shipping sector saw the greatest decline in energy consumption during the recession; bunkers dropped by 10 % in 2009 compared to 2007, reflecting weak consumer demand. However, this was also the first transport sector to see a return to growth; over 1% between 2009 and 2010. Combined energy use for aviation, rail and shipping has reduced by 5.2 % between 2007 and 2011. The greatest reduction was for domestic navigation (10.2 %), followed by aviation (5.7 %) and rail (5.3 %). Road transport represents the largest energy consumer, accounting for 72 % of total demand in 2011. It has also been the least affected by the economic downturn, falling by only 3.9 % between 2007 and 2011.

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

Transport energy consumption (EEA-32 excluding Iceland and Liechtenstein)

Note: Bar chart showing final energy consumption broken down by different fuel types. Orange line shows total energy consumption for oil derived fuels, dotted red line shows transport target on oil consumption that applies to EU27 (Transport White Paper, 2011).

Data source:

Final energy consumption by transport modes between 1990-2010 in EU27 (Mega tonnes of oil equivalent)

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). The most recent year is an extrapolation based on monthly fuel deliveries.

Data source:

Energy consumption from transport has grown by over 30% since 1990. Energy efficiency has improved during this period – for example, the energy efficiency of the average new passenger car in Europe improved by over 20% in the past decade (EEA, 2012). However the effects of these efficiency improvements have been offset by an overall increase in transport demand. The effects of the recent economic recession brought about a marked decrease in overall energy consumption through 2008 to 2010. Records show that total transport energy consumption was nearly 4.5 % lower in 2010 compared to an overall peak in 2007. However, this slump is likely to be temporary, with estimates for 2011 seeing a 0.1% increase over 2010. Longer term projections for the region foresee that economic recovery will sustain renewed growth in transport energy consumption to at least 2020 (albeit at a lesser rate than in the previous decade, as policies designed to reduce transport energy use begin to take effect). Though this period, transport demand is expected to grow faster than energy consumption, in other words the energy intensity of transport will decrease.

The EEA 32 countries[1] consumed approximately 441 Mtoe providing energy for transport in 2010. The vast majority, 82.7 %, is consumed by the original 15 Member States, with 10.7 % consumed by the new 12 Member States and the remaining 6.6% by other EEA countries.

The 12 new EU Member States have collectively increased consumption by 68 % since 1990; despite many of these new member states initially recording a decline in the early nineties, reflecting the economic difficulties experienced in the transition to market economies. Only three Member States consumed less energy in 2010 compared to 1990: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Three have more than doubled their energy consumption over the same period: the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia. Malta has recorded a five-fold increase in its transport energy consumption almost solely through increases in shipping activity (bunker fuels).

Until the first effects of the recession appeared in 2008, transport energy consumption in the 15 original EU Member States had shown steady growth since 1990. In 2010, all of the EU-15 Member States experienced a continuation of the reduction in transport energy consumption compared to the peak in 2007. However, the decline between 2009 and 2010 was much less pronounced, signalling a bottoming out of the period of contraction. Italy, Spain and the UK have experienced the greatest absolute decrease through this period, primarily due to reductions in road transport. However, total energy consumption in the EU15 is still nearly 30% higher than it was in 1990.

Road transport energy consumption over the period has increased by 80 % in the new EU12 Member States and by 22 % in the original EU-15. 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 transported by sea in all EU-12 Member States (with the exception of Malta) may also be a result of their geographical location, with fewer major ports currently in the EU-12 than in the EU-15.

Aviation shows the strongest growth of all modes, increasing by 79 % since 1990. However, the sector also registered the largest fall in energy consumption (and the largest reduction in passenger demand) through the recession, showing a 7 % reduction compared to the previous year.

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. Of all the modes, only rail has lower energy consumption in 2010 compared to 1990. This reduction has been less pronounced in some countries, in part attributed to movements of national and international freight which are strongly linked with geographical location of countries. Countries registering the highest share of international transport are located in key corridors within the European market. In the Baltic States of Latvia and Estonia, situated at the border between Europe and Russia, international transport accounted for 91 % and 89 % respectively of the total transport in 2010. For those in the periphery such as the UK and Turkey, the share is much lower, 2 % and 9 % respectively (Eurostat 2012)

The energy consumption from inland water transport for the whole of the EU has remained fairly constant during the 1990s and 2000s. The sector experienced a resurgence in activity up until the recent recession, most notably in the EU-15, with energy consumption in 2007 up 12 % on the 1990 level in the EEA member countries.

Across the EEA member countries energy consumption in maritime transport (i.e. ‘bunkers’) has grown by 38 % 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 and the 2020 climate and energy package. 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 Liechtenstein and Iceland – 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.
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Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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