Energy production and imports
- Data extracted in July 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2017.
The dependency of the European Union (EU) on energy imports, particularly of oil and more recently of gas, forms the backdrop for policy concerns relating to the security of energy supplies. This article looks at the production of primary energy in the EU and, as a result of the shortfall between production and consumption, the EU’s increasing dependency on energy imports from non-member countries. Indeed, more than half (53.5 %) of the EU-28’s gross inland energy consumption in 2014 came from imported sources.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
Production of primary energy in the EU-28 totalled 771 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2014. This continued the generally downward development observed in recent years, with 2010 the main exception as production rebounded following a relatively strong fall in energy production in 2009 that coincided with the financial and economic crisis. When viewed over a longer period, the production of primary energy in the EU-28 was 17.3 % lower in 2014 than it had been a decade earlier. The general downward development of EU-28 primary energy production may, at least in part, be attributed to supplies of raw materials becoming exhausted and/or producers considering the exploitation of limited resources uneconomical.
In 2014, the highest level of primary energy production among the EU Member States was in France, with a 17.6 % share of the EU-28 total, followed by Germany (15.6 %) and the United Kingdom (14.0 %). Compared with a decade earlier the main change was the fall in the share of the United Kingdom, down from 24.1 % — see Table 1. The only other Member States whose shares fell over this period were Denmark (-1.3 percentage points) and Lithuania (-0.4 percentage points); there was no change in the shares for Greece, Cyprus or Malta.
In absolute terms, half of the EU Member States recorded an expansion in their level of primary energy production during the 10 years to 2014. The largest expansions in the production were registered in Italy (7.6 Mtoe), while Spain, Finland, Austria, Portugal and Estonia all reported increases within the range of 2.0–2.5 Mtoe. By contrast, the production of primary energy in the United Kingdom fell by as much as 116.7 Mtoe, while Germany (-16.9 Mtoe), Denmark (-15.1 Mtoe) and Poland (-11.2 Mtoe) were the only other EU Member States to report contractions in excess of 10.0 Mtoe in their respective levels of primary energy production.
Primary energy production in the EU-28 in 2014 was spread across a range of different energy sources, the most important of which in terms of the size of its contribution was nuclear energy (29.4 % of the total). The significance of nuclear energy was particularly high in France where it accounted for more than four fifths (82.8 %) of the national production of primary energy, while in Belgium this share was just less than three quarters (71.2 %) and in Slovakia it was close to two thirds (64.1 %); elsewhere, the share of nuclear energy in primary production was less than half of the total, with no contribution from nuclear energy in 14 of the EU Member States; the German government has announced plans to close all of its nuclear reactors by 2022.
In 2014, close to one quarter (25.5 %) of the EU-28’s total production of primary energy was accounted for by renewable energy sources, while the share for solid fuels (19.4 %, largely coal) was just below one fifth and the share for natural gas was somewhat lower (15.2 %). Crude oil (9.1 %) was the only other major source of primary energy production (see Figure 1).
The growth of primary production from renewable energy sources exceeded that of all the other energy types; this growth was relatively uniform during the period covering 2004–14, with a small dip in production in 2011 (see Figure 2). Over this 10-year period the production of renewables increased by 73.1 %. By contrast, the production levels for the other primary sources of energy generally fell over this period, the largest reductions being recorded for crude oil (-52.0 %), natural gas (-42.9 %) and solid fuels (-25.5 %), with a more modest fall of 13.1 % for nuclear energy.
The downturn in the primary production of hard coal, lignite, crude oil, natural gas and more recently nuclear energy led to a situation where the EU was increasingly reliant on primary energy imports in order to satisfy demand, although this situation stabilised in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis. The EU-28’s imports of primary energy exceeded exports by some 881 Mtoe in 2014. The largest net importers of primary energy were generally the most populous EU Member States, with the exception of Poland (where some indigenous reserves of coal remain). In 2004, Denmark had been the only net exporter of primary energy among the EU Member States, but in 2013 Danish energy imports exceeded exports such that there were no longer any Member States that were net exporters of energy (see Table 2). Relative to population size, the largest net importers in 2014 were Luxembourg, Malta and Belgium.
The origin of EU-28 energy imports has changed somewhat in recent years, although Russia has maintained its position as the main supplier of crude oil and natural gas (despite seeing its share reduced somewhat in recent years) and also emerged as the leading supplier of solid fuels (see Table 3). In 2014, some 29.0 % of the EU-28’s imports of crude oil were from Russia: it became the principal supplier of solid fuels in 2006, overtaking South Africa, having overtaken Australia in 2004 and Colombia in 2002. Russia’s share of EU-28 solid fuels imports rose from 18.0 % in 2004 to 30.0 % by 2009, before falling somewhat to 25.7 % by 2012 and rebounding to 29.0 % in 2014. By contrast, Russia’s share of EU-28 imports of natural gas declined from 43.6 % to 32.1 % between 2004 and 2010, but this development was reversed with increases thereafter leading to a share of 37.5 % in 2014. Throughout the 10 years shown in Table 3, Norway remained the second largest supplier of EU imports of crude oil and natural gas.
The security of the EU’s primary energy supplies may be threatened if a high proportion of imports are concentrated among relatively few partners. More than two thirds (69.1 %) of the EU-28’s imports of natural gas in 2014 came from Russia or Norway— as such there was a greater concentration of imports than in 2010 when the same two countries accounted for 59.6 % of natural gas imports. A similar analysis shows that 43.5 % of EU-28 crude oil imports came from Russia and Norway in 2014 (with Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan accounting for sizeable shares), while 70.7 % of the EU-28’s imports of solid fuels originated in Russia, Colombia and the United States. There was some evidence of new partner countries emerging between 2004 and 2014. This was notably the case for crude oil imports from Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iraq, or natural gas imports from Qatar and Libya.
EU-28 dependency on energy imports increased from less than 40 % of gross energy consumption in the 1980s to reach 53.5 % by 2014 (see Figure 3). This latest figure marked a slight decrease in the dependency rate, which had peaked at 54.5 % in 2008. The highest energy dependency rates in 2014 were recorded for crude oil (88.2 %) and for natural gas (67.4 %). In the last decade (between 2004 and 2014), the EU’s dependency on non-member countries for supplies of natural gas grew 13.8 percentage points, faster than the growth in dependency for crude oil (7.5 percentage points) and solid fuels (7.4 percentage points). Since 2004, the EU-28’s net imports of energy have been greater than its primary production; in other words, more than half of the EU-28’s gross inland energy consumption was supplied by net imports.
As it was no longer a net exporter, Denmark’s energy dependency rate turned positive in 2013 and remained positive in 2014, which was also the case for all of the other EU Member States (see Figure 4). The lowest energy dependency rates in 2014 were recorded for Estonia, Denmark, Romania and Poland (the only other Member States to report dependency rates below 30.0 %). Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus were (almost) entirely dependent on primary energy imports, with dependency rates that were over 90 %.
Data sources and availability
Energy commodities extracted or captured directly from natural resources are called primary energy sources, while energy commodities which are produced from primary energy sources in transformation plants are called derived products. Primary energy production covers the national production of primary energy sources and takes place when natural resources are exploited, for example, in coal mines, crude oil fields, hydropower plants, or in the fabrication of biofuels. Whenever consumption exceeds primary production, the shortfall needs to be accounted for by imports of primary or derived products.
The heat produced in a reactor as a result of nuclear fission is regarded as primary production of nuclear heat, alternatively referred to as nuclear energy. It is calculated either on the basis of the actual heat produced or on the basis of reported gross electricity generation and the thermal efficiency of the nuclear plant. Primary production of coal and lignite consists of quantities of fuels extracted or produced, calculated after any operation for the removal of inert matter.
Transformation of energy from one form to another, such as electricity or heat generation from thermal power plants, or coke production from coke ovens is not considered as primary production.
Net imports are calculated as the quantity of imports minus the equivalent quantity of exports. Imports represent all entries into the national territory excluding transit quantities (notably via gas and oil pipelines); exports similarly cover all quantities exported from the national territory.
More than half of the EU-28’s energy comes from countries outside the EU and this proportion has been generally rising over recent decades (although there is some evidence to suggest that the dependency rate has stabilised in recent years). Much of the energy imported into the EU comes from Russia, whose disputes with transit countries have threatened to disrupt supplies in recent years. Concerns about the security of supply from Russia were further heightened by the conflict in Ukraine.
In response to the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis of January 2009, the legislative framework concerning the security of supplies was reviewed and in September 2009 the Council of the European Union adopted Directive 2009/119/EC imposing an obligation on EU Member States to maintain minimum stocks of crude oil and/or petroleum products. These measures for oil and gas markets were designed to ensure that all parties take effective action to prevent and mitigate the consequences of potential disruptions to supplies, while also creating mechanisms for Member States to work together to deal effectively with any major oil or gas disruptions which might arise; a coordination mechanism was set up so that Member States can react uniformly and immediately in emergency cases.
In November 2010, an initiative titled ‘Energy 2020 a strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy’ (COM(2010) 639 final) was adopted by the European Commission. This strategy defined energy priorities for a period of 10 years and put forward actions that may be taken in order to tackle a variety of challenges, including achieving a market with competitive prices and secure supplies, boosting technological leadership, and effectively negotiating with international partners. One of the priorities is to pursue good relations with the EU’s external suppliers of energy and energy transit countries. This work has been further developed through a 2030 energy strategy which provides a policy framework for climate and energy policy to 2030 and a 2050 energy roadmap which set a long-term goal of reducing the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80–95 % by 2050.
Through the Energy Community (established in October 2005), the EU also works to integrate neighbouring countries into its internal energy market. A broad mix of energy sources and diversity in suppliers, transport routes and transport mechanisms may each play an important role in securing energy supplies. Building reliable partnerships with supplier, transit and consumer countries is seen as a way to reduce the risks associated with the EU’s energy dependency and in September 2011 the European Commission adopted a Communication titled ‘The EU energy policy: engaging with partners beyond our borders’ (COM(2011) 539 final).
There are a number of ongoing initiatives to develop gas pipelines between Europe and its eastern and southern neighbours. These include the Nord Stream (between Russia and the EU via the Baltic Sea) which became operational in November 2011 and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (connecting Turkey to Italy through Greece and Albania to bring gas from the Caspian Sea region to the EU).
In response to continuing concerns about the EU’s dependency on energy imports, in May 2014 the European Commission released its Energy Security Strategy (COM(2014) 330 final) which aims to ensure a stable and abundant supply of energy. As well as short-term measures looking at the impact of a halt to Russian gas imports or a disruption of imports through the Ukraine, the strategy addressed long-term security of supply challenges and proposed actions in five areas, including: increasing energy production in the EU and diversifying supplier countries and routes, and speaking with one voice in external energy policy.
- Consumption of energy
- Electricity production, consumption and market overview
- Energy statistics introduced
- Energy price statistics
- Natural gas market indicators
- Renewable energy statistics
- Sustainable development - climate change and energy
- The EU in the world - energy
Further Eurostat information
- Shedding light on energy in the EU — A guided tour of energy statistics (digital publication) — 2016 edition
- Energy balance sheets — 2014 data — 2016 edition
- Energy balance sheets — 2013 data — 2015 edition
- Energy balance sheets — 2011-2012 — 2014 edition
- Energy, transport and environment indicators — 2015 edition
- Energy, transport and environment indicators — 2014 edition
- Statistical analysis of EU trade in energy products, with focus on trade with the Russian Federation
- Energy (t_nrg), see:
- Energy statistics - quantities (t_nrg_quant)
- Energy (nrg), see:
- Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quant)
- Energy statistics - supply, transformation and consumption (nrg_10)
- Energy statistics - imports (nrg_12)
- Energy statistics - exports (nrg_13)
Methodology / Metadata
- Energy statistics — supply, transformation and consumption (ESMS metadata file — nrg_10_esms)
- Energy Statistics Manual
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Europe's Energy Portal
- European Commission — Directorate-General for Energy — Energy Security Strategy
- International Energy Agency
- OECD–NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency)