Europe 2020 indicators - climate change and energy

Data from June 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables. Planned article update: May 2018.

This article is part of a set of statistical articles on the Europe 2020 strategy. It provides recent statistics on climate change and energy in the European Union (EU).

The Europe 2020 strategy is the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for the current decade. It emphasises smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as a way to strengthen the EU economy and prepare its structure for the challenges of the next decade.

Climate change and energy are closely interlinked, due to the fact that production and consumption of energy generated from fossil fuels substantially contribute to global warming. In 2009, the EU committed to limiting the average global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, through reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as unchecked climate change would erode the foundations of modern society. This commitment was reinforced and strengthened in 2015 by the Paris Agreement’s aspiration to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Through its climate change and energy targets the Europe 2020 strategy aims to shift the EU towards a low-carbon economy based on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Europe 2020 strategy targets on climate change and energy

The Europe 2020 strategy sets three objectives for climate and energy policy, to be reached by 2020 [1]:

  • Reducing GHG emissions by at least 20 % compared with 1990 levels;
  • Increasing the share of renewable energy in final energy consumption to 20 %; and
  • Moving towards a 20 % increase in energy efficiency.

These targets are also known as the ‘20-20-20’ targets. The Europe 2020 strategy's three climate and energy targets are interrelated and mutually support one another. The EU is currently debating the climate and energy targets for 2030. With the Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative package of November 2016, the European Commission has tabled a comprehensive set of legislative proposals and measures to further develop climate and energy policy after 2020.

The analysis in this article is based on the three headline indicators chosen to monitor the climate and energy targets: ‘GHG emissions’, ‘share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption’ and ‘primary and final energy consumption’.

Contextual indicators are used to present a broader picture, looking into the drivers behind changes in the headline indicators. Changes in EU GHG emissions are analysed in relation to underlying sectoral trends. Based on this analysis EU trends are compared with information on the global trend in GHG emissions and its impact on global mean temperature and the climate system. The analysis then turns to the two most important measures for cutting EU emissions, namely energy supplied from renewable sources and energy efficiency. For both fields, progress at the EU and Member State levels is assessed with a special focus on the wider socioeconomic effects of the emerging green economy.

Key messages

  • In 2015, EU greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions from international aviation and indirect CO2 emissions, were down by 22.1 % compared with 1990 levels. The EU is thus expected to exceed its Europe 2020 target of reducing GHG emissions by 20 % by 2020.
  • All sectors, except fuel combustion in transport and international aviation, contributed to the reductions between 1990 and 2015. In 2015 transport emissions have risen for the second consecutive year — coinciding with a return of stronger economic growth.
  • Renewable energy is on the rise in the EU: in 2015 it provided 16.7 % of gross final energy consumption, up from 8.5 % in 2004. Member States’ renewable energy shares ranged from 53.9 % in Sweden to 5.0 % in Luxemburg and Malta. Electricity from solar or wind projects is increasingly competitive with fossil fuel–based power generation.
  • Solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels still provide the biggest share of total renewable energy in the EU. It is the largest renewable energy source used in transport and for heating and cooling.
  • For transport, renewable energy provided 6.7 % of all energy used in 2015, up from 1.4 % in 2004.
  • In the electricity sector, hydropower remains the dominant renewable energy technology. However, thanks to cost reductions and effective support schemes, the share of wind and solar energy has increased particularly quickly.
  • The EU has made substantial progress towards its energy efficiency objective. The 2020 target for final energy consumption has already been achieved. With respect to primary energy consumption, the EU must achieve a further reduction of 3.1 % over the five years between 2015 to 2020 to achieve the target of improving energy efficiency by 20 %. In 2015, the EU consumed 10.7 % less primary energy than in 2005.
  • Although energy efficiency policies have helped drive reductions in primary energy consumption, some of the reductions can be attributed to lower economic output and warmer than average years, such as 2013 and 2014.
  • All but two Member States reduced primary energy consumption compared to 2005 by values ranging from 3.3 % to 27.3 %.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, agriculture and forestry, as well as industry, have reduced final energy consumption by over a quarter, while consumption in the residential has remained stable. By contrast, energy consumption in the services and transport sectors has risen by 35.2 % and 26.3 %, respectively.
  • The EU still relies heavily on energy imports from non-EU countries, which provided 54.1 % of all energy consumed in 2015. The main supplier of energy to the EU in 2015 was Russia. It supplied 37.3 % of total gas imports, 32.9 % of imports of petroleum products and 29.1 % of solid fuel imports.
Table 1: Indicators presented in this article

Main statistical findings

The EU is on track to achieving its GHG emission reduction target for 2020

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a central objective of the Europe 2020 strategy. As a result, the EU as a whole aims to reduce these emissions by 20 % compared with 1990 levels (including international aviation and indirect CO2 emissions). The main policy instruments to achieve this target are the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD).

The EU ETS sets a single EU-wide cap for more than 11 000 power stations and industrial plants, as well as the emissions from flights within the European Economic Area (EEA). It allows these economic actors to trade emission allowances among themselves. The cap shrinks each year to reach an emissions reduction of 21 % compared with 2005 by 2020.

The Effort Sharing Decision sets binding annual GHG emissions targets for Member States for sectors not included in the EU ETS. Member States’ targets for the non-EU ETS sectors (such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste) vary between a 20 % reduction to a 20 % increase in emissions by 2020, reflecting differences in starting points and wealth . Less wealthy economies are allowed to increase their emissions to accommodate higher economic growth. Their targets still limit emissions compared with business-as-usual scenarios; hence all Member States are committed to making reductions. By 2020, the national targets will collectively deliver a reduction of around 10 % in total EU emissions from the non-EU ETS sectors compared with 2005 levels.

Together, the EU ETS and the Effort Sharing Decision will reduce overall emissions to around 14 % below 2005 levels by 2020 [2]. This will equal a 20 % cut below 1990 levels. In addition to these overarching instruments, the EU has set an array of policy tools to address emissions from certain sectors and activities.

Figure 1: Greenhouse gas emissions, EU-28, 1990–2015
(Index 1990=100)
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_30)

By 2015, the EU as a whole had cut man-made GHG emissions by 22.1 % compared with their 1990 levels (see Figure 1). A large portion of this reduction occurred during the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1994 a large drop of 6.8 % occurred, mostly due to structural changes (such as a shift from heavy manufacturing industries to more service-based economies), modernisation in industries and a change from coal to gas. Emissions began to rise again in 1995, but this trend reversed in 1997. Between 1998 and 2007 emissions stabilised at around 92–94 % of 1990 levels. This was mainly the result of a decrease in the consumption of fossil fuels. However, significant cuts were also made in the waste sector through the reduction of landfilling and in agriculture due to a decline in livestock numbers and nitrogenous fertiliser use [3].

By far the sharpest single-year decline in GHG emissions since the early 1990s occurred between 2008 and 2009 (– 7.2 %). During this time the economic crisis reduced industrial production, transport volumes and energy demand. The following years only saw slow recovery in many parts of Europe. The decline of CO2 emissions observed between 2009 and 2012 can mainly be attributed to three factors: improvement in the energy intensity of the EU economy, development of renewable energy sources and the economic slowdown [4].

From 2013 to 2014, GHG emissions fell by 3.1 %, while GDP grew 1.7 % [5]. The largest share of emission reductions during this year were achieved in the energy sector, with more than 80 % of cuts occurring because of lower emissions from electricity generation in thermal power stations [6]. However, between 2014 and 2015, GHG emissions started to increase again by 0.5 % and real GDP continued to grow by 2.2 % [7] This emission increase was the result of growth in road transport, both passenger and freight. Furthermore, colder temperatures in Europe in 2015 led to rising emissions in the residential and commercial sectors [8].

Figure 2: Greenhouse gas emissions per capita, by country, 2005 and 2015
(Tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: European Environment Agency (online data code: (t2020_rd300))
Figure 3: Greenhouse gas emissions and projections, 1990–2050
(Million tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: European Environment Agency

Dividing emission figures by the total population provides a way of comparing countries’ GHG emissions on a more equal footing. Figure 2 shows Member States’ overall per capita GHG emissions for the years 2005 and 2015. Luxembourg emitted the most GHG per capita in the EU in 2015. This can partly be attributed to a considerable number of commuters from neighbouring countries fuelling their cars on Luxembourgish territory, as well as road freight transit and fuel tourism [9]. Luxembourg was followed by Estonia, Ireland and the Netherlands. In contrast, per capita emissions were lowest in some eastern and southern European countries as well as in Sweden.

Between 2005 and 2015, Luxembourg showed the highest reduction in per capita emissions. Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Finland and Cyprus also showed large falls. However, emissions rose in some of the eastern Member States over the same time frame.

Looking towards 2020, projected GHG emissions based on Member States’ existing policy measures shows the EU is on track to surpass its 2020 target. However, it can also be seen that existing and already planned measures are not enough to put the EU on track to meet its target for the next decade to reduce GHG emissions by 40 % by 2030 [10]. Thus, further efforts will be needed. This is why the EU is introducing new mitigation policies for the period after 2020, with in particular a reform of the EU ETS and the Effort Sharing Regulation. These proposals should be adopted by the end of 2017.

All sectors except transport have lowered emissions since 1990

Figure 4: Greenhouse gas emissions by sector, EU-28, 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2015
(Million tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: European Environment Agency, Eurostat online data code (tsdcc210)

Figure 4 shows how each sector has contributed to the EU’s total GHG emissions. All sectors, except fuel combustion in transport and international aviation, contributed to the overall GHG emission reductions from 1990 to 2015.

In absolute terms, energy industries made the biggest emission reductions with 438 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over the period (26.1 %). Nevertheless, it is still the sector responsible for the largest share of total emissions (27.9 % in 2015). The second largest reduction of 353 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent was achieved in the manufacturing industries and construction, which equals a decline of 42.2 % between 1990 and 2015.

By contrast, transport emissions were 15.9 % higher in 2015 than in 1990. Fuel combustion in transport accounted for 20.4 % of total EU emissions in 2015, making it the second largest source after the energy industries. However, transport emissions were even higher in 2007, where they peaked at 988 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and then fell by 10.6 % by 2013, reaching their lowest point in 16 years. Ex-post evaluation of climate policies showed that the recent emission reductions in the transport sector were explained by the increasing share of biofuels as well as increased car efficiency (EEA, 2014). However, in 2015 transport emissions rose for the second consecutive year and are now 2.5 % above 2013 levels — coinciding with a return of stronger economic growth. Improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of alternative fuels therefore remain crucial to permanently reducing the transport sector’s GHG emissions.

Emissions from international aviation more than doubled between 1990 and 2015, increasing from 69 to 142 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Continuous positive developments in non-ETS emissions since 2005

Figure 5: Greenhouse gas emissions in non-ETS sectors, by country, 2015
(% change since ESD base year)
Source: European Environment Agency, Eurostat online data code: (t2020_35)

Figure 5 shows Member States’ non-ETS emissions between 2005 and 2015, as well as their 2020 non-ETS targets. Sixteen countries reduced their emissions and have already reached their national targets. Emissions increased in three countries, but of these only Malta went above its target. Ten Member States remain above their national reduction targets, although all of them except one had reduced their emissions up to 2015. Malta was the furthest from its target, followed by Ireland, Belgium and Luxemburg.

The overall positive trend for non-ETS emissions in the EU can be linked mainly to the building sector as a result of energy efficiency improvements and a less carbon-intensive fuel mix for space heating [11]. However, mild winter temperatures are also partly responsible for the fall in energy demand. The reductions in transport emissions since 2007 also contributed to the decrease.

Global CO2 emissions and mean temperature continue to rise

Figure 6: Global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2014
(Million tonnes of CO2 equivalent)
Source: International Energy Agency (IEA)
Figure 7: Total greenhouse gas emissions per capita, by country, 1990 and 2013
(tonnes of CO₂ equivalent per capita)
Source: World Resources Institute (CAIT database)
Figure 8: Global annual mean temperature deviations, 1850–2015
(Temperature deviation in °C, compared with 1850–1899 average)
Source: European Environment Agency, based on the HadCRUT4 dataset from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre

Despite reductions in the EU, global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion rose by 57.9 % between 1990 and 2014, as shown in Figure 6. Most of the increase took place in emerging economies. Emissions growth, both in relative and absolute terms, was strongest in China. Between 1990 and 2014, China's annual CO2 emissions more than tripled and the country overtook the United States to become the world’s biggest emitter. At the same time, China's per capita emissions from fuel combustion reached 6.66 tonnes of CO2, outpacing the EU level of 6.22 tonnes [12].

Although less important in absolute terms, emissions in the rest of Asia and the rest of the world also grew significantly in relative terms between 1990 and 2014 (214.8 % and 90.8 % respectively). As a result of these trends, the EU’s share of global CO2 emissions has been shrinking, from almost a fifth in 1990 to 9.8 % in 2014.

In 2013, GHG emissions per capita remain at very different levels across the globe. On average, an Australian emits 11 times as much as an Indian citizen. Even within the group of industrialised countries, emission levels per person vary widely. The US level is, for example, more than twice as high as the EU average. However, between 1990 and 2013 a trend towards greater convergence can be observed. While per-capita emissions have decreased in the EU (– 15 %), US (– 15 %) and Australia (– 11 %), emission levels per person have increased in poorer countries, with the biggest rises taking place in China (+ 211 %) and South Korea (+ 98 %). Over the same time frame, the global average per-capita emissions increased by 11.2 %, reaching 6.3 tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2013.

Rising emissions have dramatically increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Although there is a time lag between CO2 being emitted and the corresponding increase in average global surface temperature, recordings already show a clear upward trend (see Figure 8). Between 2001 and 2010, the global surface temperature was around 0.89 °C higher than during the first decade of the 20th century. The year 2015 was the warmest year since records began in 1850. Current projections estimate that global mean temperatures could rise by as much as 2.6 °C to 4.8 °C compared with the reference period (1986–2005) by the late 21st century (2081–2100) if CO2 emissions remain at current levels [13].

Despite the EU’s shrinking share of global CO2 emissions, recent findings on the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change confirm the ongoing importance of its climate and energy goals. EU emission cuts alone cannot halt climate change, but the GHG reduction objectives for 2030 and 2050 are considered a fair contribution to the global mitigation efforts, consistent with the internationally agreed objective of keeping the temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels [14]. Moreover, if the EU can show that a low-carbon economy is feasible, and can even increase innovation and employment, it will serve as a role model to other regions. Continuous investment in advanced low-carbon technologies can also help the EU uphold technological leadership and secure export markets. A successful clean energy transition, discussed in the next section, will create the condition for sustainable jobs, growth and investment.

More renewable energy means fewer GHG emissions

Renewable energy keeps growing steadily

The Europe 2020 strategy’s second climate change and energy target is to increase the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption to 20 % by 2020. Gross final energy consumption comprises the energy supplied to final consumers for all energy uses and the consumption of electricity and heat by the energy branch for electricity and heat production, including losses of electricity and heat in distribution and transmission.

Figure 9: Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, EU-28, 2004–2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_31)
Figure 10: Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, by country, 2004 and 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_31)

Between 2004 and 2015, the share of renewable energy almost doubled, reaching 16.7 % of gross final energy consumption in 2015 (see Figure 9). The two main drivers of this increase were the implementation of support schemes for renewable energy technology and falling costs of renewable energy systems [15]. (However, it must also be kept in mind that updated and more accurate statistical information, as a result of revisions based on specialised surveys, have also contributed to this increase, in particular data revisions in the area of solid biomass (wood) consumption in households). Over the past decade, there has been a steady growth in installed capacity for renewable electricity and heat generation, driven by policies such as feed-in tariffs, grants, tax credits and, more recently, tenders. At the same time, an introduction of obligatory quotas has stimulated the use of renewable transport fuels [16]. In the electricity sector, an upscaling of global production volumes as well as technological advances have allowed producers to substantially cut energy costs. New photovoltaic power stations built in 2016 produce electricity for a third of the costs required in 2009 and are approaching the cost level of onshore wind. The offshore wind industry has also achieved dramatic cost cuts, roughly halving costs per kilowatt-hour between 2011 and 2016 [17]. Electricity from wind turbines and large solar installations is becoming increasingly competitive with new fossil fuel plants.

These price falls led some Member States to restrict support for new renewable energy projects, which reduced profitability and created uncertainty for investors [18]. In combination with lower costs per unit, this lowered total investment in renewable energy plants. Renewable energy investment in Europe (including the Commonwealth of Independent States) peaked at EUR 88.9 billion in 2011, when both Italy and Germany experienced a boom in photovoltaic installations, and declined by over 40 % in the following four years. In 2016, the decline, was halted and investment rebounded by 3 % compared to 2015, reaching EUR 55.2 billion [19].

In 2015, the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption in Member States ranged from 53.9 % in Sweden to 5.0 % in Luxemburg and Malta (see Figure 10). Differences between Member States stem from variations in natural resources, such as the potential for building hydropower plants and the availability of biomass, but also from the success of national climate and energy policies. All EU countries increased their renewable energy share between 2004 and 2015. Fourteen have more than doubled their share, albeit from a low base. Ten have already met their 2020 targets.

Compared with other world regions, the EU’s renewable energy share is relatively high. The continent of Africa, where the use of traditional biomass is still widely used, procured almost half of its total primary energy supply from renewable sources in 2014, however, most emerging and industrialised countries have lower shares. For example, China covered 11.4 % of its primary energy supply through renewable sources in 2014 ( ), followed by Mexico with 8.5 %, the United States (7.1 %), Australia (6.6 %) and Japan (5.3 %). In the Middle East, the share was as low as 0.4 %. An exception was Canada, which had a renewable share of 18.0 % in 2014 due to its abundant hydropower resources [20].

Biofuels dominate renewable energy but wind and solar are expanding fast

Figure 11: Gross inland consumption of renewable energy, by source, EU-28, 2004 and 2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat online data code (nrg_107a)

Renewable energy can be generated from a range of sources, including hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power. Bioenergy remains by far the EU’s most important renewable energy source because it contributes to all energy use sectors (electricity generation, transport and heating and cooling). In 2015, solid biofuels, renewable waste, biogas and liquid biofuels provided 64.4 % of the total gross inland consumption of renewable energy (see Figure 11). At the same time, wind and solar energy are growing the fastest. In 2015, the EU generated 26.0 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) from wind energy — a more than five-fold increase compared with 2004. In the same year, solar energy contributed 13.1 Mtoe, more than 18 times as much as in 2004.

Shares of renewable energy in different sectors

Figure 12: Share of renewable energy sources in total final electricity consumption, EU-28, 2004–2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (SHARES 2015)
Figure 13: Share of renewable energy in fuel consumption of transport, EU-28, 2004–2015
(%)
Source: Eurostat (SHARES 2015)

Renewable energies contribute both to electricity and energy consumption for heating and cooling as well as to the transport sector.

After rapid expansion over the past decade, renewables contributed 28.8 % of total gross final electricity consumption in 2015, compared with 14.3 % in 2004 [21]. Hydropower remained the largest source, but declined in relative weight as wind, solar and biogas experienced rapid growth (see Figure 12).

Moreover, renewable energy provided 18.6 % of Europe’s final energy consumption for heating and cooling in 2015, up from 10.2 % in 2004 [22]. Solid biofuels delivered the largest share of total renewable consumption, followed by minor contributions from biogas, solar thermal and ambient heat captured by heat pumps.

Between 2011 and 2015, the share of renewables in transport energy use increased from 4.0 % to 6.7 %. Figure 13 shows this share increasing almost continuously since 2004, with a break in 2011 when the accounting methodology changed.

The Renewable Energy Directive (Directive 2009/28/EC) sets sustainability criteria for the production of liquid biofuels, which make up the largest share of renewables in transport [23]. Since 2011 only those biofuels certified as sustainable according to the Directive are counted towards the share of renewables in transport and are therefore included in the indicator. Some Member States transposed the sustainability standards into national law earlier than others. This change in the accounting methodology explains the drop in the share of renewables in transport from 2010 to 2011.

Consumption of liquid biofuels in transport has been growing steadily, but also slowly. In 2015, the overall share of renewable energy in transport was at 6.7 % in the EU. In the same year, Member States, shares ranged between 0.4 % and 24 %. However, despite a slight increase in the EU’s overall share of renewable energy in transport of 0.2 % between 2014 and 2015, the share fell or remained stable in 12 Member States.

A 2015 amendment to the Fuel Quality Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive puts greater emphasis on production of advanced biofuels (biofuels stemming from the residual non-food parts of crops, as well as crops that are not used for food purposes). Furthermore, it limits the contribution of liquid biofuels produced from crops grown on agricultural land towards the 2020 renewable energy transport target to 7 %. Alternative biofuels, mainly based on used cooking oil, contributed 23 % to all compliant biofuels used in the EU in 2015, up from 1 % in 2009 (see the 2017 Renewable energy progress report by the European Commission).

The EU needs to further pursue energy efficiency improvements

Delivering the same service or product by using less energy is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing GHG emissions and enhancing energy security. Building renovations as well as efficiency improvements in the transport sector offer the biggest potential for further reductions (see the European Commission’s 2016 Energy efficiency progress report).

The Europe 2020 target is to move towards a 20 % increase in energy efficiency. In absolute terms this means that by 2020 EU energy consumption should not exceed 1 483 Mtoe of primary energy or 1 086 Mtoe of final energy (see Art. 3 of the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Council Directive adapting the Energy Efficiency Directive as a result of the accession of the Republic of Croatia).

Primary energy consumption (PEC) includes all gross inland energy consumption except energy carriers employed for non-energy purposes, for example, petroleum or gas not used for combustion but for producing plastics. By contrast, final energy consumption only comprises the energy supplied to the final consumer’s door for all energy uses, excluding energy used by the energy sector. The difference between primary and final energy consumption is equivalent to the energy losses occurring during energy transformation (particularly electricity generation), transmission and distribution.

Energy consumption in the EU has been decreasing, with a reversed trend in recent years

Figure 14: Primary energy consumption and final energy consumption, EU-28, 1990–201
(Million tonnes of oil equivalent)
Source: Eurostat online data codes (t2020_33) and (t2020_34))

As shown in Figure 14, PEC in the EU was on an intermittent but overall rising trend until 2006 when it peaked at 1 722 Mtoe. However, by 2009, following the economic crisis, it had fallen sharply by  124 Mtoe. It rebounded temporarily in 2010, but continued on its downward path over the next four years, reaching 1 508 Mtoe in 2014. The downward trend was interrupted in 2015, when PEC increased by 1.4 % compared to the previous year. In 2015, the EU consumed 2.5 % less primary energy than it did in 1990 and 10.7 % less than in 2005. To achieve the target for 2020, the EU needs to reduce its primary energy consumption by another 3.1 % in the five years between 2015 and 2020.

Much of the decrease between 2008 and 2009 may be attributed to reduced economic activity as a result of the financial and economic crisis, rather than to a structural shift in energy consumption patterns. In 2010, an especially cold winter caused a sharp increase in heating demand. The most recent reductions from 2011 onwards can again be partly attributed to reduced economic output expressed by a 0.5 % contraction of real GDP in 2012. However, primary energy consumption continued to fall thereafter, despite a real GDP growth of 1.7 % in 2014 [24]. Warmer years in 2013 and 2014, and improvements in energy efficiency due to new policies, are considered to have contributed to this decrease (see the European Environment Agency's Trends and Projections Report 2016). The slight increase in 2015 reflects a return to more average heating demand compared to the exceptionally warm 2014 (see the European Commission’s 2016 Energy efficiency progress report).

The analysis underlines the need to further pursue energy-efficiency measures. Continuous effort can ensure PEC will continue to decrease even when economic growth accelerates.

The trend in final energy consumption has closely followed the trend in primary energy consumption, reaching 1 082 Mtoe in 2015. This means that the energy efficiency target for final energy consumption has already been reached.

According to the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), the EU efficiency target is measured as a 20 % saving compared with a hypothetical projection for EU primary energy consumption (PEC). Starting with the 2005 base year, this business-as-usual projection (carried out in 2007) estimated a primary energy consumption of 1 853 Mtoe in 2020. It assumed continuous economic growth and no additional energy-efficiency policies above and beyond those in place in 2005. The envisaged 20 % saving amounts to an absolute saving of 370 Mtoe, resulting in a target PEC of no more than 1  483 Mtoe for 2020 (See Council Directive 2013/12/EU). Compared with the actual PEC in 2005, this is equivalent to a reduction of 13.4 %.

Globally, only one major economy has reduced PEC by more than the EU: Japan consumed 16 % less primary energy in 2015 than it did in 2005. The United States reduced its PEC by 5.9 % over the same time frame, whereas energy demand rose in all other big industrialised countries and regions. The highest increase of 68 % between 2005 and 2014 was observed in China, followed by the Middle East (53.9 %), Korea (31.3 %) [25], and Africa (28.8 %) (IEA Headline Global Energy Data, 2016 edition). An increase in PEC can, however, occur despite energy efficiency improvements. In emerging economies in particular, high economic growth and population drive up demand for energy.

Changes in energy consumption at Member State and sector level

Figure 15: Change in primary energy consumption, by country, 2015
(Index 2005= 100)
Source: Eurostat online data code (t2020_33)
Figure 16: Final energy consumption, by sector, EU-28, 1990 and 2015
(% in total FEC)
Source: Eurostat online data code (tsdpc320)
Figure 17: Final energy consumption, by sector, EU-28, 1990–2015
(Index 1990=100)
Source: Eurostat online data code (tsdpc320)

Figure 15 shows the change in PEC from 2005 to 2015 in all Member States. Looking at the 2015 data, 26 Member States reduced primary energy consumption compared to 2005 by values ranging from 3.3 % to 27.3 %. PEC increased in Poland and Estonia by 2.7 % and 14.3 %, respectively.

Between 1990 and 2015, economic sectors showed different final energy consumption trends (see Figure 16 and 17). Agriculture and forestry, as well as industry, reduced their final energy consumption by 26.6 % and 25.8 %, respectively, while the residential sector’s consumption remained stable with a reduction of just 0.3 %. By contrast, energy consumption in the services and transport sectors grew up by 35.2 % and 26.3 % respectively over the same time period.

While these changes reflect sector-specific levels of energy-efficiency improvement, they also relate to structural changes in the EU economy, particularly a shift away from an energy-intensive industry to a service-based economy. In the case of transport, a large share of efficiency gains have been outweighed by rising volumes of transport over the past few decades. In 2015, the majority of final energy was used in transport with a 33.2 % share, followed by industry and the residential sector with shares of 25.3 % each. The services sector was responsible for 13.6 % and agriculture and forestry for 2.2 % of final energy consumption.

Despite recent reductions in energy consumption, substantial potential for cost-efficient improvements in energy efficiency remains untapped. There is, for example, particular scope for savings in transport, building refurbishment, industrial processes and along the energy supply chain.

EU's dependency on energy imports has been increasing, despite renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements

Figure 18: Energy dependence, EU-28, 1990–2015
(% of imports in total energy consumption)
Source: Eurostat online data code (tsdcc310)
Figure 19: Where the EU imports its energy carriers from, 2015
(thousand tonnes and million cubic metres)
Source: Eurostat online data codes (nrg_122a), (nrg_123a) and (nrg_124a)

Energy-efficiency improvements can strengthen the EU’s competitiveness and lower its dependence on fossil fuel imports. The EU’s energy dependence — the share of total energy needs met by imports from non-EU countries — has increased significantly over the past decade, reaching 54.1 % in 2015 (see Figure 18). Shrinking domestic production of fossil fuels is mostly responsible for this increase. By contrast, most renewable energy can be sourced domestically. The imported share of solid fuels such as hard coal has more than doubled between 1990 and 2015, while the share of imports in total gas consumption has increased by 25 percentage points. The increasing demand for fossil fuel imports is driven by a decline in domestic oil, gas and coal production [26]. Over the observed period, the fall in EU mining and drilling has overcompensated the increase in domestic renewable energy production.

Dependence on imported energy exposes the European economy to significant costs and the risk of supply shortages, for example, due to geopolitical conflicts. The expansion of renewable energy sources and the improvement of energy efficiency reduce these risks and contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy’s employment objective (see the article on Employment) by creating jobs and value added within EU borders.

Figure 19 shows where the EU imports energy from. The main supplier in 2015 was Russia. It supplied 37.3 % of gas, 32.9 % of petroleum products and 29.1 % of solid fuels imports from non-EU suppliers. The second largest source of natural gas is other non-EU European countries, mainly Norway, with 33.0 %. Also 11.8 % of oil imports come from this region. The second largest source supplying oil to the EU after Russia is Africa, with 19 %, followed by the Middle East with 16.9 %. Regarding solid fuels, Central and South America is the second largest source after Russia with 24.3 %, followed by North America with 17.3 %.

Outlook towards 2020

According to the 2016 Climate action progress report, the EU is expected to exceed its 2020 GHG emission target. Also at the Member State level, regarding their achievement of individual non-ETS targets (manifested in the Effort-Sharing Decision), 24 countries are on track to meet their GHG targets (except Austria, Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg) (See EEA Trends and Projections in Europe 2016). However, projections show that further efforts will be necessary to put the EU on track to meet the 2030 target.

With respect to renewable energy, the EU is currently on track to meet its 2020 target (EEA, 2016). However, the European Commission’s 2017 Renewable energy progress report emphasises that continuous effort is required to keep up investment and to further remove administrative barriers. The EEA also emphasises that in view of the EU’s decarbonisation objectives for 2050, the development of renewable energy capacity needs to speed up (See EEA Trends and Projections in Europe 2015).

The 2020 target for energy efficiency is within reach. To achieve it, the EU needs to reduce PEC by an extra 3.1 % in the five years between 2015 and 2020. Nevertheless, continuous efforts are needed to ensure primary energy consumption returns to a downward path after a slight rebound in 2015 and remains on it while the economy continues to grow. The 2016 Energy efficiency progress report concludes there is still potential for further energy efficiency improvements, particularly in the buildings and transport sectors.

Data sources and availability

Indicators presented in the article:

Context

By changing weather patterns, redrawing coastlines and degrading natural ecosystems, unchecked climate change threatens to erode the foundations on which modern society is built. To avoid dangerous levels of warming, the international community, including the EU, committed to the objective of limiting the mean global temperature rise to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to drive efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5°C. This agreement was signed at the UNFCCC 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in 2015 in Paris. A target of 2 °C was already agreed upon in 2009 at COP 15 in Copenhagen. As a means of implementing the international obligations in the EU, the Europe 2020 strategy aims to turn the EU into a so-called ‘low-carbon’ economy based on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

To contribute to this global goal, the EU has pledged to continually reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) it emits. The Europe 2020 strategy reinforced this commitment, aiming to turn the EU into a so-called ‘low-carbon’ economy and reduce GHG emissions by 80–90 % by 2050 compared with 1990. Among all GHGs, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the most prevalent, accounting for about 81 % of the EU’s GHG emissions in 2014 (without Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry)(EEA, 2016). Other GHGs include nitrous oxide, methane and fluorinated gases. The aggregate of GHGs is often measured in CO2 equivalents to make the data comparable. In addition to mitigating climate change, climate and energy policies have further environmental and health benefits, by helping to reduce air pollution and the health risks it poses. This lowers health costs and increases well-being, particularly in cities.

The transition towards a low-carbon economy is not only a strategy to prevent catastrophic climate change. Climate and energy policies contribute to the core objective of the Europe 2020 strategy of enabling sustainable growth. A push for renewable energy and energy efficiency — two key levers for reducing emissions — can spur innovation and create jobs. Therefore, the EU’s ‘20-20-20’ targets are also interlinked with other Europe 2020 goals, in particular those for research and development (R&D) and employment.

The EU can become a lead market in fields with high global demand. Creating demand for ever-better green products while boosting innovation and export strength in the growing global market will be key to mastering new technologies such as smart grids, energy storage and electric vehicles. At the same time, more efficient energy use will improve the competitiveness of EU businesses by lowering production costs.

More renewables and improved energy efficiency can also reduce energy dependence and save the EU between EUR 175 and 320 billion in energy import costs per year over the next 40 years [27]. As recognised in the flagship initiative Innovation Union, a push for technological and policy innovation will be crucial for accomplishing this transformation.

The EU’s Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy, introduced in 2015, complements to existing climate change and energy governance policies covering the period up to 2020 and will guide the development of policies for the following decade up to 2030. It aims to ensure a secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy supply by focusing on five related and mutually supportive dimensions: 1) energy supply security of the EU; 2) the EU-internal energy market; 3) energy efficiency improvements; 4) GHG emission reduction; and 5) research and innovation. To implement these goals, the European Commission presented the Clean Energy for all Europeans package in November 2016. The package encompasses a set of legislative proposals and facilitating measures which are now being discussed in the European Council and in the European Parliament.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

External links

Notes

  1. European Commission, Taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM(2014) 130 final, Brussels, 2014.
  2. Based on Eurostat data on greenhouse gas emissions, base year 1990 (accessed 6 July 2016)
  3. Climate change – driving forces, Statistics Explained, Eurostat Website (retrieved June 2017).
  4. EEA, Analysis of key trends and drivers in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU between 1990 and 2015, EEA Report No. 8/2017, Copenhagen 2016.
  5. Based on Eurostat data on real GDP growth rate — volume (online data code: (tec00115), accessed 12 June 2017).
  6. EEA, Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2014 and inventory report 2016, EEA report No 15/2016, Copenhagen 2016.
  7. Based on Eurostat data on real GDP growth rate — volume (online data code: (tec00115), accessed 12 June 2017).
  8. Eurostat, Using official statistics to calculate greenhouse gas emissions, Luxembourg 2010 (p. 28).
  9. Eurostat, Using official statistics to calculate greenhouse gas emissions, Luxembourg 2010 (p. 28).
  10. European Council (23 and 23 October 2014) — Conclusions, Brussels 2014.
  11. EEA, Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2015 and inventory report 2017, EEA report No 19/2015, Copenhagen 2017.
  12. IEA, CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion, 2016.
  13. EEA, SOER 2015 — The European environment: Increasingly severe consequences of climate change (GMT 9), 2015.
  14. European Commission, Impact Assessment accompanying the Communication A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 up to 2030, SWD(2014)15.
  15. EEA, Renewable energy in Europe 2017: recent growth and knock-on effects, EEA Report No 3/2017, Copenhagen 2017.
  16. Ecofys, Renewable energy progress and biofuels sustainability, Utrecht 2014.
  17. McCrone, Angus et al, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, commissioned by UN Environment’s Economy Division in cooperation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and produced in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Frankfurt am Main 2017.
  18. EEA, Renewable energy in Europe 2017: recent growth and knock-on effects, EEA Report No 3/2017, Copenhagen 2017.
  19. McCrone, Angus et al, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, commissioned by UN Environment’s Economy Division in co –operation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and produced in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Frankfurt am Main 2017, p.14. US dollar values were converted to euros based on Eurostat exchange rate data (online data code: (ert_bil_eur_a)).
  20. IEA Headline Global Energy Data, 2016 edition.
  21. Eurostat, Shares 2015 — Short assessment of renewable energy sources (last update: 27 March 2017).
  22. Eurostat, Shares 2015 — Short assessment of renewable energy sources (last update: 27 March 2017).
  23. Eurostat, Shares 2015 — Short assessment of renewable energy sources (last update: 27 March 2017).
  24. Based on Eurostat data on real GDP growth rate — volume (online data code: (tec00115), accessed 7 July 2017).
  25. Refers to provisional 2015 data.
  26. European Commission, In-depth study of European Energy Security. Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the European energy security strategy, SWD(2014) 330 final/3, Brussels 2014.
  27. European Commission, Climate Action: Benefits of climate action, 2016 (accessed 1 June 201).