Indicator Assessment

Final energy consumption in Europe by mode of transport

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-113-en
  Also known as: TERM 001
Published 14 Dec 2015 Last modified 11 May 2021
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  • The annual energy consumption of transport in the EEA-33 grew by 38 % between 1990 and 2007. However the impacts of the economic recession caused a subsequent decline in transport demand. Between 2007 and 2013, energy demand decreased by 9 %. Overall, between 1990 and 2013, there was a 25 % net growth in the energy consumption of transport in the EEA-33.
  • The shipping sector saw the greatest decline in energy consumption during the economic recession; it dropped by 10 % between 2008 and 2009 alone, with a total decrease of 20 % between 2007 and 2013. Total energy use for road, aviation and rail transport fell by 7% between 2007 and 2013.
  • Road transport accounts for the largest share of energy consumption, with 74 % of the total EEA-33 demand in 2013. Despite a decrease in energy consumption since the recession, road transport energy consumption in 2013 was still 23 % higher than in 1990. The fraction of diesel used in road transport has continued to increase, amounting to 71% of total fuel sales in 2013.
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Final energy consumption by transport modes

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Growth in energy consumption by transport

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Change in final energy consumption by transport mode

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Energy consumption by transport

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Total growth

In 2013, the energy consumption by transport in the EEA-33 was 25 % higher than in 1990 (Figure 2). In the EU-13 Member States, most of this growth occurred in road and maritime transport. In the EU-15 Member States the growth occurred mainly in air transport, while the largest absolute increase in energy consumption was from road transport. 

Split of energy consumption between old and new EU Member States

In 2013, the EEA-33 countries consumed approximately 17 356 petajoules (PJ, 1015 joules) of energy on transport. At 82 %, the original EU-15 Member States consumed the vast majority, with 11% used by the newer EU-13 Member States. The final 6 % was used in the remaining EEA member countries.

Overall trends in transport energy consumption

Energy consumption by transport has increased by 65 % in the 13 new EU Member States since 1990 (see Figure 2). In 2013, only Latvia and Lithuania consumed less energy on transport compared to 1990. Five Member States more than doubled their energy consumption over the same period: the Czech Republic, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Turkey. Malta reported a five-fold increase in the energy consumption of its transport, almost exclusively due to a forty-fold increase in shipping activity (bunker fuels).

Between 1990 and 2007, energy consumption by transport in the EU-15 Member States had shown steady growth. In 2013, all of the EU-15 Member States experienced a continued reduction in energy consumption by transport, compared to the 2007. However, total energy consumption in the EU-15 was still 18 % higher in 2013 than in 1990.

In the EU-15, energy consumption in all transport modes decreased between 2012 and 2013. Maritime and inland water transport decreased the most, by approximately 7 % each, rail transport decreased by 5 %, and road and air transport decreased by less than 1 % each. In the EU-13, energy consumption decreased in road, rail and air transport (by less than 5% each) between 2012 and 2013, and increased in inland water transport and maritime transport (by less than 5 % each).

Sectoral trends

In the EEA-33, aviation shows the greatest growth in energy consumption of all transport modes, increasing by 68 % between 1990 and 2013 (Figure 3). In 2013 it was the mode with the second largest energy consumption, after road transport. This growth has mostly come from the EU-15, where  fuel consumption by air transport increased by 69 %. In the EEA-33, the period of strongest growth for aviation was between 1990 and 2007, when it grew by 84 %. Between 2007 and 2013, energy consumption in the EEA-33 aviation fell by 9 %. In the future, air transport is predicted to be the mode with the highest growth rates, becoming the second most important passenger mode after road transport by 2050, due to an increasing number of international trips. Nonetheless, energy consumption is predicted to grow less than activity as more energy efficient aircraft are introduced and the fleet is renewed.

In the EU-13, energy consumption by road transport grew by 80 % between 1990 and 2013. In the EU-15 it grew by 13 % over the same period. This is matched with a steady increase in passenger car demand over the last two decades of approximately 20 % (see TERM012), and an increase of over 70 % in land freight transport in the EU-13 over the last decade (see TERM013).

Energy consumption by maritime transport increased by 53 % across the EEA-33 between 1990 and 2007, before decreasing by 20 % between 2007 and 2013. This resulted in energy consumption being 23 % higher in 2013 than in 1990. The countries with the highest energy use by maritime transport are, by order of magnitude, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium.

The low share of energy consumption by rail is partly due to a relatively small modal share, but also because in most situations rail transport is less energy-intensive than other modes. In 2013, 53 % of the rail network in the EEA-33 was electrified (see TERM018). Rail and inland waterways were the only modes that recorded an absolute decrease in energy consumption between 1990 and 2013 in the EEA-33.

Energy consumption by inland water transport for the EEA-33 has remained fairly constant during the 1990s and early 2000s. The sector experienced an increase in activity between 2002 and 2006, most notably in the EU-15, with energy consumption in 2006 up 19 % on 1990 levels in the EEA-33. It has since declined, and by 2013, energy consumption in the EU-15 was 23 % lower than in 1990, and 18% lower across the EEA-33.


Policies that reduce the demand for transport, encourage a shift towards more environmentally-friendly modes, improve transport management and enhance vehicle energy efficiency are required in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the Kyoto protocol and the EU 2030 climate and energy package. They are also required in order to meet the 70% reduction in oil consumption between 2008 and 2050, which is included in the Transport White Paper. The EU 2030 policy framework for climate and energy agreed in 2014 (EC, 2014b) includes:

  • An EU domestic emissions reduction target of 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030;
  • An increase in the share of renewable energy to at least 27 % of the EU’s energy consumption by 2030;
  • An energy efficiency increase target of at least 27% by 2030;
  • A reform of the EU Emissions Trading System.

Policies that only focus on the incremental efficiency of vehicles will not be sufficient to deliver a long-term low carbon transport sector. Further development must also optimise the performance of multi-modal logistic chains, and use transport and infrastructure more efficiently through improved traffic management and information systems, advanced logistic and market measures such as the completion of an integrated European railway market, and the removal of barriers to short sea shipping, etc (EC, 2011a).

In May 2014, the EEA countries adopted the Athens Declaration, which emphasised the role of short sea shipping as in an attempt to to shift long-distance transport away from roads and address capacity, energy and climate challenges (GR, 2014). This builds on the Transport White Paper (EC, 2011b) goal which aims to shift 30 % of road freight travelling over 300 km to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50 % by 2050. This will be done by facilitating efficient and ‘green’ freight corridors.

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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