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The activities related to energy use may be analysed in three stages; the production of primary energy, its conversion to derived energy, and the sector in which fuels are finally consumed, or end use (see Box 19A for energy related definitions). Primary energy resources are unevenly distributed across the countries of Europe and this leads to different levels of production activity. The main factors which determine the quantity of energy consumed in any particular country include the number of people, their income level, the level and structure of production in the economy, the technology in place, energy efficiency, and energy prices. High levels of energy consumption are particularly associated with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe where energy prices have been very low in the past (see Box 19B for an explanation of data sources and country groupings used in this chapter).

Big gains in energy efficiency since the early 1970s have resulted in a weakening of the links between growth in population, GDP and energy consumption. This demonstrates that, through greater energy efficiency, it is possible to obtain the same amount of energy services (that is, the practical end use to which energy is put) using less energy input. Improvements in energy efficiency can reduce all the main environmental impacts from energy use, and are especially important for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (for which no cost-effective control technologies are currently available). This can be economically profitable at the same time by avoiding the investment in new capacity (eg, building new power stations and energy distribution systems). Improvements in efficiency of a few per cent per year can go a considerable way towards reducing the demand for energy when an economy is growing at, say, 2 to 3 per cent per year. Further improvements in energy efficiency are possible for existing generating installations in Europe, and also for specific end-use sectors, for instance, tighter control over heating levels and/or improved insulation in European homes.

The mix of fuels consumed (ie, energy derived from solid fuels, gas, oil, nuclear, renewables and derived energy sources such as electricity) is subject to many influences, including energy and environmental regulation and policy, prices of various fuels (influenced either by the market or government intervention), technological developments, and the need for security of supply. Depending on the relative influence of these factors in the various parts of Europe, some quite different patterns of fuel mix have emerged, which in turn lead to varying contributions to environmental impacts from the generation of energy from different sources.

In 1990, the world gross energy consumption was about 8250 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), an increase of 2.2 per cent per year since 1985, of which the EU accounted for some 15 per cent, Central Europe approximately 4 per cent, the former USSR around 16.5 per cent and EFTA countries 1.8 per cent (CEC, 1993b).

Each region in Europe consumes a mix of primary energy containing all three fossil fuels: oil, gas and solid fuels (coal, lignite), in different proportions. In the EU oil is the main fuel consumed, in Central Europe it is solid fuels, while in the former USSR gas and oil are the most important. In EFTA the main fuel is also oil, but significant proportions of hydropower and biomass are used (CEC, 1993b). In all country groups gas is likely to take an increasing share of energy consumption in the future, because of both increased availability and lower environmental impact relative to other fossil fuels.

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