Final energy consumption by end users in the EU during 2022 decreased by 2.8% compared to 2021, while primary energy consumption, which includes all energy uses, decreased by 4%. Despite this recent progress and an overall reduction in energy consumption since 2005, it is unlikely but uncertain that the EU will meet its energy efficiency targets for 2030. This would require annual reductions to be several times stronger than observed in recent years. Strong, immediate and decisive action to reduce energy consumption will be required for the EU to approach its targets.

Figure 1. Primary and final energy consumption in the European Union

Reducing energy consumption typically leads to a reduction in environmental pressures associated with the production and consumption of energy. It supports the achievement of the EU renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets, lowers emissions of air pollutants with its associated health benefits and enhances energy security.

In September 2023 the EU adopted the recast Energy Efficiency Directive (EU) 2023/1791, which set a binding target of 763 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) for final energy consumption (FEC), and an indicative target of 992.5Mtoe for primary energy consumption (PEC) to be achieved by 2030. FEC represents the energy used by final consumers. PEC represents the total energy demand within a country, including losses.

According to Eurostat energy balances for 2022, the EU-wide PEC levels were 1258Mtoe, while EU-wide FEC levels were 940Mtoe, a decrease of 4.2% and 2.8% respectively compared to 2021. The reductions can be attributed to high energy prices, especially for gas. These developments occurred mainly as a result of the invasion of Ukraine and the EU’s reduction in Russian fossil fuel imports.

The EU and its Member States took active measures to save energy, such as the Council Regulation on coordinated demand reduction measures for gas (EU/2022/1369), where Member States agreed to reduce their gas demand by 15% compared to their average consumption in the past five years. This led to significant decreases in energy consumption by industry and households. Outages in nuclear reactors in France had a large impact on PEC. However, energy consumption in transport and of liquid fuels generally saw an increase in 2022.

Full time-series of developments in energy efficiency since 2005 show more pronounced overall reductions for PEC by 16% than for FEC by 10%. The replacement of fossil fuels and nuclear energy by renewables in electricity generation typically reduces PEC without affecting FEC, and the share of renewable energy in the EU has more than doubled since 2005. Various other factors have contributed to the reduction of energy demand in the EU, such as energy saving measures, energy transformation improvements, structural changes towards less energy intensive industries and gradually warmer winters due to climate change.

Compared with average annual reductions of the last 10 years, reaching the PEC target for 2030 requires multiplying annual reductions by three, and for the FEC target by six, each year for the rest of the decade. Based on this, it is unlikely but uncertain that the EU would meet the 2030 targets on energy consumption. Deep and fast transformation of the energy sector is necessary during this decade if targets are to be met. A stronger emphasis on efforts to conserve energy and deploy renewable sources faster are also needed.

To maximise benefits, new measures could empower users to operate in response to the system’s needs. Member States will develop their policies and measures in updated National energy and climate plans, due to be submitted to the European Commission in June 2024. These may include pathways to address the energy efficiency shortfall.

Figure 2. Change in energy consumption of EU Member States between 2005 and 2022

Change in energy consumption of EU Member States between 2005 and 2022

Twenty-four Member States have decreased their FEC between 2005 and 2022, with Greece, the Netherlands and Italy achieving the highest reductions. Twenty-five Member States have decreased their PEC during the same time period, with Greece as the biggest achiever followed by Italy and Lithuania. Cyprus’ PEC in 2022 remained slightly above their 2005 level, while Poland is the only country to experience a substantial increase in PEC. Poland’s significant decrease in coal consumption was overcompensated by an increase in the consumption of gas, liquid fuels, and by more than tripling the consumption of renewable energy since 2005.

The short-term trend shows a decrease in FEC between 2021 and 2022 in 21 Member States, with Luxembourg, Slovakia and the Netherlands reducing FEC the most. Malta saw the highest increase in FEC during the same period, driven by a revitalisation of international aviation. Luxembourg and France experienced the strongest drop in PEC in 2022, with lower consumption of coal, gas and nuclear being a key factor. Nine Member States saw an increase in PEC in 2022, with Malta, Cyprus, Portugal and Estonia experiencing growth of more than 5%.