Energy

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Page Last modified 18 Sep 2019
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Our quality of life depends, among other things, on a reliable supply of energy at an affordable price. But energy production and use place significant pressures on the environment, as we chiefly rely on fossil fuels and waste a substantial part of this energy before and during use. Energy activities give rise to greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, land use, waste generation and oil spills, contributing to climate change, damage of natural ecosystems and of the built environment, and adverse effects on human health.

Supplying energy to households, services, industry, transport and agriculture relies on a complex activity chain that starts with the extraction of renewable and non-renewable fuels from the environment and, after intermediary phases, ends with the conversion of refined energy carriers (such as electricity, heating, liquid hydrocarbons, natural gas and hydrogen) into useful energy for final consumers. Health and environmental aspects play an important role during the energy conversion chain, as do socio-economic and political factors.

Introduction

The demand for energy is growing and most countries still rely on fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) to satisfy their energy demand. However, the combustion of fossil fuels increases atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, contributing to climate change and rising average global temperatures. Air pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates) are also released, worsening our air quality. Thanks to environmental policies and technical progress, these industrial emissions have declined over the past decades. However, they remain a challenge in many EU areas.

Even though in the European Union an increasing share of our energy needs are met by renewable energy sources, the energy conversion chain remains the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Today, it is responsible for over three quarters of our total emissions of greenhouse gases.

EU-wide energy consumption peaked in 2006 and has gradually decreased since then. However, this downward trend reversed in recent years, partially driven by increased demand from other sectors, such as transport.

EU Policy

Energy is increasingly a policy priority at EU level. To integrate the national energy markets at the EU level and enable a gradual transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, the European Commission launched A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward Looking Climate Change Policy (the Energy Union strategy) in 2015. It seeks to decarbonise the economy, in large part through energy efficiency improvements and growth in renewable energy sources, to strengthen energy security, to promote an integrated internal energy market and to support research, innovation and competitiveness.

The Clean Energy for all Europeans package of policies, agreed by the legislators in 2018, is central to achieving the Energy Union strategy. Introducing the notion of ‘energy efficiency first’ and strengthening the rights of consumers, it consists of legislative proposals on energy efficiency, renewable energy, electricity market design, security of electricity supply and governance aspects. For a socially fair and sustainable energy transition, it also includes non-legislative initiatives for coal regions in transition, clean energy for EU islands and a focus on energy poverty across Europe. Most importantly, it sets new EU-wide climate and energy targets for 2030, which include:

  • a binding target to increase the share of renewable energy sources (RES) in the EU to at least 32 % of gross final energy consumption by 2030;
  • an indicative target of at least a 32.5 % improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 at EU level (compared with the Commission's 2007 Energy Baseline Scenario).

These targets follow on from the Europe 2020 strategy targets, which aim for 20 % of Europe’s energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2020 and a 20 % improvement in energy efficiency by 2020.

EEA activities

One of the EEA’s key activities in the field of energy is monitoring the integration of environmental considerations into the energy sector. A set of energy and environment indicators is updated and published regularly.

The EEA also carries out assessments of the interplay between energy, climate change and other environmental dimensions. This includes:

 

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