Statistics Explained

Energy balances - early estimates


Data extracted in June 2022.

Planned update: June 2023.

Based on preliminary 2021 data for the EU, fossil fuels were again the leading source for electricity generation.

Based on preliminary 2021 data for the EU, the consumption of natural gas was the highest in the past 10 years.

Based on preliminary 2021 data for the EU, consumption of solid fossil fuels increased by 13.7% compared to 2020, but remained below 2019 levels.

Highlights


Figure 1: Electricity generation in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_pehcf) and (nrg_ind_pehnf)

This article presents the 2021 preliminary data for energy commodities, estimating the evolution of the energy supply across the EU in 2021 as compared with 2020. Reporting countries transmit their preliminary annual energy data on a voluntary basis within 5 months after the end of the reference year to Eurostat. This improved timeliness is the result of Eurostat’s response to policy needs, and reporting countries have significantly contributed to achieving these results. Final annual energy data is published by Eurostat 13 months after the end of the reference period (final 2021 data will be available by the end of January 2023). The sections below present the highlights for the EU aggregate. All preliminary data are available in the commodity balances of the energy database. MS Excel files at the end of this article include all detailed national data for the supply side[1] of energy commodities.

After a long period of national lockdowns and restrictive measures introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, 2021 saw a rebound in economic activity in many EU countries. Businesses reopened, people started to travel again, and all this had an effect on energy use in the EU. Oil and petroleum products, for example, after a sharp drop in 2020, increased by 5.0 %. The consumption of natural gas, in the context of rocketing prices particularly in the second half of the year, was the highest recorded in the past ten years in the EU. Solid fossil fuels increased by 13.7 % compared to 2020, which still places them on their second lowest level since 1990.

Figure 1 shows the contribution of different fuels to electricity generation in the EU. Preliminary data suggest that, in 2021, fossil fuels were again the leading source for electricity generation.


Full article


Solid fossil fuels (coal) and manufactured gases

Contrary to the developments observed in 2020, preliminary 2021 data indicate a year-on-year increase in the supply and inland consumption of coal. However, solid fossil fuels in 2020 were on a record low level since data are available (i.e. since 1990) partially due to lockdowns introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise in 2021 was to a large extent caused by the post-lockdown industrial recovery, as well as by the increased use of coal for electricity and heat generation in some EU countries, as a replacement for the increasingly expensive natural gas. Even with the growing figures observed in 2021, solid fossil fuels are on their second lowest level since 1990, as expected given the EU's decarbonisation goals. Inland consumption of lignite in the EU increased by 31.6 million tonnes (Mt) (+12.83 %), other bituminous coal rose by 18.9 Mt (+18.95 %), oil shale and oil sands by 1.7 Mt (+13.83 %), coking coal by 2.1 Mt (+4.83 %), and coke oven coke by 4.9 Mt (-17.56 %).These solid fossil fuels, being the most represented in the solid fossil fuels total, drive the overall upward trend in supply and consumption. Most other solid fossil fuels follow the same trend. By contrast, peat and peat products were on the decrease (-22.5 %, and -8.48 %, respectively), as well coal tar (-8.37 %). Manufactured gases, mostly produced in relation to coal consumption in iron and steel industry, increased rather significantly, with the exception of gas works gas. These data are presented in Table 1. The MS Excel file available at the end of the article provides details on indigenous production, imports, exports and stock changes for each type of coal, as well as country specific data.

Table 1: Inland consumption of solid fossil fuels and manufactured gases in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_sff), and (nrg_cb_gas)
Figure 2: Index of inland consumption for fossil fuels in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_sff), (nrg_cb_gas) and (nrg_cb_oil)

Figure 2 shows the trend in fossil fuels. Preliminary data suggest a continuation of significant decreases for coal in 2020.

Natural gas

Preliminary 2021 data indicate a further decrease in the domestic production of natural gas (-8.7 % compared to 2020). Combined with these production developments, a very slight drop in imports (-0.1 %) and a significant one in exports (-20.3 %) resulted in a 3.9 % increase in the inland consumption of natural gas (see Table 2). The MS Excel file available at the end of the article provides details for each country. According to these preliminary data, Bulgaria saw the biggest increase in inland consumption of natural gas (+12.9 %), closely followed by Slovakia (+11.3 %), and Greece (+10.6 %). On the other hand, Sweden reported the sharpest decrease in inland consumption of natural gas (-9.2 %), followed by Denmark (-4.9 %), Lithuania (-4.8 %), and Portugal (-4.2 %). Cyprus was still the only EU country without any natural gas consumption, while the Netherlands remained the biggest natural gas producer in the EU, with 721 PJ of indigenous production.

Table 2: Natural gas supply and inland consumption in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_gas)

Oil

Preliminary 2021 data indicate that the demand of refineries for primary oil (such as crude oil) increased slightly: +2.6 % for calculated refinery intake (see Table 3). A similar trend (+3.2 %) was also observed for the supply of refined petroleum products from refineries (see Table 4). Gas/diesel oil followed by motor gasoline were the most significant oil products refined in the EU, accounting together for 59.4 % of the total refinery output in 2021. The gross inland deliveries of all petroleum products to the EU market show an increase in 2021 (+5.0 %). The preliminary data suggest that gross inland deliveries of transport fuels (motor gasoline, gas/diesel oil, LPG and kerosene type jet fuel) all increased compared to 2020, unsurprisingly given the very low values in 2020 due to lockdowns. More details and country specific preliminary data are available in the MS Excel file for oil.

Table 3: Oil and petroleum products supply in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_oil)


Table 4: Refinery gross output in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_oil)

Electricity & heat

The total electricity supply in the EU increased by 4.2 % compared to 2020. Preliminary data indicate significant annual variations between various fuel sources. After the renewable category surpassed fossil fuels for electricity generation in 2020, 2021 saw a return to fossil fuel dominance. On the renewables side, preliminary 2021 data show the biggest increases in electricity produced from solar energy (+13 % or 18.7 TWh) on the EU level, followed by solid biofuels (+9.6 % or 7.9 TWh). On the other hand, due to unfavourable weather conditions, electricity generation from hydro and wind decreased (-1.2 % and -3 %, respectively). There were no significant changes in the production of electricity from natural gas (-1.7 % or -9.3 TWh). At the same time, electricity generation from certain solid fossil fuels increased substantially in 2021: other bituminous coal (+25.6 % or +39.2.5 TWh) and lignite (+16.2 % or +31.7 TWh). In comparison with 2020, the output of nuclear power plants increased by 7.0 % (+48 TWh). The biggest contributors to the EU electricity generation system in 2021 were nuclear (731 TWh), natural gas (550 TWh), wind (386 TWh), hydro (370 TWh), lignite (227 TWh), other bituminous coal (193 TWh), and solar (163 TWh). Fossil fuels in total (1 078 TWh) were the biggest contributor as an individual fuel group, with renewables closely following in the second place (1 069 TWh).

Table 5: Electricity supply in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_e), (nrg_ind_pehcf) and (nrg_ind_pehnf)

The total derived heat supply in the EU in 2021 is estimated to have increased by 8.9 % compared to 2020. Natural gas as the most important fuel for heat production in the EU saw an increase of 6.3 % or 49.9 PJ. Looking at all fossil fuels together, preliminary data indicate an increase in heat production of 7 % or 103 PJ. Solid biofuels, the second largest contributor to heat production, increased even more significantly by 12.6 % or 59.4 PJ, whereas heat from wastes (industrial waste and renewable/non-renewable municipal waste) increased by 5 % or 12.9 PJ. Other sources contribute significantly less to the total heat production, and preliminary data indicate mixed trends. More details and country specific preliminary data are available in the MS Excel file at the end of the article.

Table 6: Derived heat supply in the EU - Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_h), (nrg_ind_pehcf) and (nrg_ind_pehnf)

Renewables and waste

Preliminary 2021 data indicate that the use of renewable energies increased in 2021. As seen in Table 5, electricity generated from several renewable sources recorded relatively high increases (solar +13 %, solid biofuels +9.6 %). However, there were also some drops in electricity production from certain renewables (hydro -1.2 %, tide, wave and ocean -1.1 %, wind -2.9 %, geothermal -2.3 %, other liquid biofuels -6.5 %). Table 7 shows that the use of ambient heat recorded the biggest increase (+13.7 %), followed by biogasoline with +9.3 %. Industrial and municipal waste for energy purposes slightly increased as well (non-renewable industrial waste +1.4 %, renewable municipal waste +1.2 %, non-renewable municipal waste +0.3 %). Supply of charcoal continued its downward trend and was 14.4 % lower than in 2020. Unlike biogasoline, supply of biodiesels remained relatively stable, whereas other liquid biofuels dropped by 6.5 %. Preliminary data indicate a small increase in the use of solar thermal energy (+1.9 %) and a subtle drop in geothermal energy (-1.8 %) in 2021. More details and country specific preliminary data are available in the MS Excel file for renewables and waste.

Table 7: Supply of renewables and wastes in the EU Source: Eurostat (nrg_cb_rw)

Data sources & methodology

Timeliness and accuracy of the input data

Currently, the official energy annual data (the European statistics on energy) is published in a harmonised form of commodity/energy balance by Eurostat 13 months after the end of the reference period (2015 data were available at the end of January 2017, 2016 data were available at the end of January 2018, etc.). Consequently, in the documents of the Energy Union Report from November 2015, the latest data available cover the reference year 2013, i.e. almost 2 years after the end of the reference period or "year-2". This is not optimal for a proper monitoring process and it is therefore essential to find ways to reduce this 'gap'. This could be achieved in several different ways:

  • by finding solutions for improving the timeliness and accuracy of the existing statistical annual data collections
  • by developing suitable new statistical data collections
  • by estimation/modelling techniques.

Timeliness, quality control and continuity of the monitoring process

The process of aggregating input data in order to produce relevant indicators is complex. It requires the collection of data, their validation and aggregation into indicators, all of this in a timely and accurate manner. The compilation and analysis in this process is time-consuming and efforts are needed to further automatize the process in order to efficiently provide high quality results. There is a strong need to have a database for ensuring the continuity of the monitoring process over time. Therefore some developments are necessary in order to reduce the administrative burden of the process, to avoid potential human errors when processing data into indicators and to increase flexibility to cope with potential changes in the monitoring process or indicators.

Transparency of the monitoring process

The monitoring process should be done in a transparent manner. In other words, the indicators should be publicly available in an easily understandable visual presentation (including graphs and data tables) together with the calculation/estimation methodology.

The development of solutions

The European Commission (DG Energy and Eurostat) is developing short-term and long-term solutions. During 2016, DG Energy undertook an exploratory study to try to identify ways of having early estimates or earlier preliminary data on 2015 energy consumption. The future activities of DG Energy are planned to be complementary to Eurostat deliveries – whenever available, official statistics will be used as the primary source of information.

Eurostat response to policy needs

In March 2016 Eurostat initiated an intensive cooperation with the reporting countries in the Energy Statistics Working Group (ESWG) and launched the Energy Statistics Task Force on Early Estimates of Energy Balances. This cooperation resulted in the dissemination of preliminary data[2] of the 2017 supply side of the energy balance in July 2018, i.e. 7 months after the end of the reference period. For the years 2018, 2019 and 2020, the preliminary supply side data were published in June 2019, June 2020 and June 2021, respectively, i.e. 6 months after the end of reference period. The published data are to be considered preliminary and are revised upon the delivery of data as defined in Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 on energy statistics. Further developments in the upcoming years are planned on delivering estimates of the key aggregates of the consumption side of energy balance. Together with the reporting countries, Eurostat will develop a methodology to produce early estimates of energy balances and will further analyse their accuracy. When the high quality of the results is confirmed, Eurostat will complement the dissemination of commodity balances with the early estimates of energy balances.

The methodology

Data collection (including possible estimation) is done at the national level by the respective National Statistical Institutes or Other National Authorities transmitting data to Eurostat. Eurostat does not publish any estimates for values not transmitted by individual reporting countries. However, for the purpose of presenting the EU aggregate, some missing values need to be estimated for a very limited number of reporting countries. These Eurostat estimates are not present on the data sheets with national data and were used only for the improvement of the accuracy of the EU aggregate.

The results

The commodity balances in the energy database as well as the MS Excel files below include all national results. These data should be considered as preliminary for the reference year 2020; these are not final data for policy evaluation or official monitoring of developments towards legally binding targets.

The limitations

The exercise on developing early estimates of energy balances is currently under development by Eurostat and the Energy Statistics Task Force on the Early Estimates of Energy Balances. It is yet to be seen if the preliminary data provided by reporting countries can be used only to create an accurate estimate of the supply side of the energy balance or also the estimate of the consumption side of the energy balance. Eurostat, in pursuing the approach of full transparency, publishes the collected data (the input into the project in the form of the so called "mini-questionnaires"). Thus the limitations as for any statistics under development should apply also for these data.

Context

The European Green Deal and the Energy Union

Energy Union

The need for energy balances earlier.

The European Green Deal, adopted by the Commission on 11 December 2019, is an ambitious EU climate policy that aims for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This requires a fundamental transformation of our energy system, which can only be achieved through a combination of coordinated action – legislative and non-legislative – at EU and national level. The Energy Union is the main energy policy instrument to deliver the transformations required to decarbonise our energy system. The Energy Union strategy has mutually reinforcing and closely interrelated dimensions designed to bring greater energy security, sustainability and competitiveness. The aim of the Energy Union is to provide a new integrated, cooperative and more effective framework for common EU energy and climate policies providing secure, affordable, competitive and sustainable energy to the European consumers – households and businesses. The first State of the Energy Union report stated the following: "In order to track progress, a transparent monitoring system has to be put in place based on key indicators as well as on Member States' biannual reports concerning progress made on their national plans. The Commission intends to assess collective progress made at the EU level in its annual State of the Energy Union and, if necessary, propose policy actions and measures to ensure the delivery of the Energy Union objectives". Using reliable high quality data to monitor the progress made to achieve the Energy Union and European Green Deal targets will enhance the credibility of the EU energy policy, therefore official statistics need to contribute to this process to remain relevant and aligned to the needs of our policy-makers and society. The energy data presented in this article support this monitoring.

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Energy statistics - quantities (nrg_quant)
Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quanta)
Supply, transformation and consumption - commodity balances (nrg_cb)
Supply, transformation and consumption of solid fossil fuels (nrg_cb_sff)
Supply, transformation and consumption of gas (nrg_cb_gas)
Supply, transformation and consumption of oil and petroleum products (nrg_cb_oil)
Supply, transformation and consumption of renewables and wastes (nrg_cb_rw)
Supply, transformation and consumption of electricity (nrg_cb_e)
Supply, transformation and consumption of derived heat (nrg_cb_h)
Energy indicators (nrg_ind)
Gross production of electricity and derived heat from combustible fuels by type of plant and operator (nrg_ind_pehcf)
Gross production of electricity and derived heat from non-combustible fuels by type of plant and operator (nrg_ind_pehnf)

Notes

  1. The preliminary annual data that Eurostat publishes within the framework of this voluntary exercise concerns energy supply. In this article we use the terms supply and inland consumption interchangeably, since the calculated inland consumption corresponds to the supply.
  2. While most countries provide preliminary data, some countries are able to provide final data and other countries can provide estimates.