Energy production and imports
Data extracted in January 2022.
Planned article update: February 2023.
Production of primary energy by fuel type, EU, 2010-2020
The dependency of the European Union (EU) on energy imports, particularly oil and natural gas, forms the backdrop for policy concerns relating to the security of energy supplies. This article looks at the production of primary energy within 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 (57.5 %) of the EU’s gross available energy in 2020 came from imported sources.
Production of primary energy decreased between 2010 and 2020
Production of primary energy in the European Union (EU) totalled 24 027 Petajoule (PJ) in 2020 — see Table 1. This was 7.1 % lower than a year before, the largest decrease observed based on available data. Primary energy production continued the generally downward development observed in recent years, with an exception in 2012-2013 when a slight increase occurred. When viewed over a longer period, the production of primary energy in the EU was 17.7 % lower in 2020 than it had been a decade earlier. The general downward development of EU primary energy production may, at least in part, be attributed to the efforts of decarbonising the energy system and improving energy efficiency. Especially for 2020, the pandemic affected production of primary energy.
In 2020, the highest level of primary energy production among the EU Member States was in France, with a 21.4 % share of the EU total, followed by Germany (17.1 %), Poland (10.1 %), Italy (6.6 %), Spain (6.2 %) and Sweden (6.1 %). Compared with a decade earlier, some of the main changes were increases in the shares of the EU total, with the largest increases recorded in Italy (1.8 percentage points (p.p.)), France (1.7 p.p.), Sweden (1.5 p.p.) and Spain (1.2 p.p.), while the largest falls in the shares of the EU total were recorded in the Netherlands (5.4 p.p.), Germany (1.9 p.p.) and Denmark (1.7 p.p.).
In absolute terms, 14 of the 27 EU Member States recorded an expansion in their level of primary energy production in the period 2010 to 2020. The largest expansion in the production was registered in Italy (an increase of 198 petajoules (PJ)), followed by Sweden (130 PJ), Ireland (72 PJ), Finland (56 PJ) and Portugal (42 PJ). By contrast, the production of primary energy in the Netherlands fell by as much as -1 829 PJ, in Germany (-1 411 PJ), while France (-596 PJ) and Denmark (-579 PJ) reported contractions in excess of 500 PJ.
Primary energy production in the EU in 2020 was spread across a range of different energy sources, the most important of which in terms of the size of its contribution were the renewable energy sources, with more than one third (40.8 %) of the EU’s total production.
Nuclear energy was second, with 30.5 % of the total primary energy production. The share of nuclear energy was particularly high in France where it accounted for 75.2 % of the national production of primary energy, while in Belgium it was over three fifths (62.8 %) and in Slovakia 59.8 %. In 10 other Member States the share of nuclear energy in primary production was less than half of the total. There was no nuclear energy production in 14 EU Member States.
The share for solid fossil fuels (14.6 %, largely coal and lignite) was below one fifth and the share for natural gas was close to one tenth (7.2 %). Crude oil (3.3 %) was the only other major source of primary energy production (see Figure 1).
The growth of EU primary production from renewable energy sources exceeded that of all the other energy types; this growth was relatively uniform during the period covering 2010-2020, with a small dip in production in 2011 (see Figure 2). Over this period the production from renewables increased by 39.2 %, replacing, to some degree, the production of other sources of energy. By contrast, the production levels for the other sources fell, the largest reductions being recorded for natural gas (-62.4 %), solid fossil fuels (-43.0 %), crude oil (-35.1 %) and 20.2 % for nuclear energy.
The EU and its Member States are all net importers of energy
As expected, primary production of hard coal, lignite, crude oil and natural gas are decreasing. Additionally, nuclear energy production is also being reduced. The EU’s imports of energy exceeded exports by 31 724 PJ in 2020. The largest net importers of energy in absolute numbers were Germany, Italy, France and Spain (Table 2). In 2010, Denmark had been the only net exporter of energy among the EU Member States, but in 2013 Danish energy imports exceeded exports and the trend was confirmed in the following seven years until 2020. Hence, since 2013 all 27 Member States of the EU are net importers of energy. Relative to population size, the largest net importers in 2020 were Luxembourg, Malta and Belgium.
The main origins of EU energy imports have changed somewhat in recent years, although Russia has maintained its position as the leading supplier to the EU of the main primary energy commodities – natural gas, crude oil and hard coal throughout the whole period 2010-2020. The only minor exception was in 2012 when the United States supplied more hard coal than Russia (see Table 3).
Russia’s share of EU imports of natural gas (including liquified natural gas) between 2010 and 2020 increased (from 30.6 % to 38.2 %). The peak of 39.6 % was recorded in 2016. During the period shown in Table 3, Norway remained the second largest supplier of EU imports of natural gas, its share slowly falling from 19.3 % in 2010 to 18.5 % in 2020, with a peak of 21 % in 2014. The share of EU natural gas supplies that originated from Algeria, the third largest supplier, decreased from 13.1 % in 2010 to 7.5 % in 2020. The share from Qatar slightly decreased, from 5.4 % in 2010 to 4.2 % in 2020.
Russia was also the principal supplier of EU crude oil imports. Its share stood at 34.7 % in 2010 and fluctuated between 35.1 % (which was the peak recorded in 2011) and 25.7 % (the lowest share, recorded in 2020). The relative share of EU crude oil supplies from Norway, the second largest crude oil supplier, increased between 2010 and 2020 reaching 8.7 %. Kazakhstan (8.4 %) had a relatively stable share between 2010 and 2020. The United States was the fourth largest crude oil supplier, its share increasing from 0.0 in 2014 to 8.1 % in 2020.
In 2020, 49.1 % of the EU’s imports of hard coal were from Russia. Russia was constantly the largest hard coal supplier to the EU in the last decade, except in 2012. The United States was the second main supplier of hard coal imports to the EU in 2020 with 15.2 % of the total. Australia was the third largest supplier of hard coal in 2020, with a share of 13.5 %.
The security of the EU’s primary energy supplies may be threatened if a high proportion of imports are concentrated among relatively few partners. Almost two thirds (57.6 %) of the EU’s imports of natural gas in 2020 came from Russia, Norway and Algeria. A similar analysis shows that imports of crude oil were less concentrated among the principal suppliers, as Russia, Norway, Kazakhstan and the United States accounted for roughly the half (50.8 %) of the EU’s imports. Hard coal is also mostly imported from Russia and the United States, but because of its wider availability, it affects to a lesser degree energy security.
More than half of EU energy needs are covered by imports
EU dependency on energy imports did not substantially change over the last decade, from 55.8 % of gross available energy in 2010 to 57.5 % in 2020 (see Figure 3). During the presented period, the EU’s net imports of energy have been greater than its primary production; in other words, more than half of the EU’s gross available energy was supplied by net imports and the dependency rate exceeded 50.0 %.
Between 2010 and 2020, some variations were noticed on the energy dependency rate: a maximum of 60.5 % was registered in 2019, while 53.9 % was the lowest dependency registered in 2013. Looking in more detail, the highest rates in 2020 were recorded for crude oil (97.0 %) and for natural gas (83.6 %), while the lowest rate was recorded for solid fossil fuels (35.8 %).
Between 2010 and 2020, the EU’s dependency on non-member countries for supplies of natural gas grew by 15.8 p.p., much faster than the growth in dependency for crude oil (up 3.0 p.p.). The dependency for solid fossil fuels during the same period reduced by -2.4 p.p..
As it was no longer a net exporter, Denmark’s energy dependency rate turned positive in 2013 and remained positive also in 2020, which was also the case for all of the other EU Member States (see Figure 4). The lowest energy dependency rates in 2020 were recorded for Estonia, Romania, Sweden and Bulgaria. Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg were (almost) entirely dependent on primary energy imports, with dependency rates between 92.5 % and 97.6 %.
An analysis of developments between 2010 and 2020 reveals that Denmark and the Netherlands became increasingly dependent upon energy imports to satisfy their gross available energy; these patterns can be largely associated with a downturn in primary energy production (linked to the supplies of raw materials becoming exhausted). There was also increasing dependency, although less marked, in Czechia, Greece and Poland. Of the remaining EU Member States that recorded a fall in their energy dependency rates between 2010 and 2020, the most rapid change was registered in Ireland, where the rate fell from 87.5 % to 71.3 % (-16.2 p.p.) followed by Portugal (-10.0 p.p.), Italy and Spain (both -9.1 p.p.), driven by a combination of energy efficiency gains and/or a switch in the energy mix to promote primary production from renewable sources (Figure 4).
Source data for tables and graphs
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’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. New 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 EU 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 December 2019, the EU Green Deal The European Green Deal (COM(2019) 640 final) was adopted. Through the EU Green Deal, the European Commission provides an action plan to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and restore biodiversity and cut pollution. The EU aims to be climate neutral in 2050. The framework for achieving climate neutrality is provided by the EU Green Deal European Climate Law (COM(2020) 80 final). Reaching this target will require action by all sectors of our economy, including investing in environmentally-friendly technologies, supporting industry to innovate, rolling out cleaner, cheaper and healthier forms of private and public transport, decarbonising the energy sector, ensuring buildings are more energy efficient and working with international partners to improve global environmental standards.
The Fit for 55 legislative proposals cover a wide range of policy areas including climate, energy, transport and taxation, setting out the ways in which the Commission will reach its updated 2030 target in real terms.
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. For example, 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). 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 The EU energy policy: engaging with partners beyond our borders (COM(2011) 539 final).
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. In 2015, the European Commission released a Communication concerning A framework strategy for a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy (COM(2015) 80 final) which argued that one important element in ensuring energy security (in particular for gas) was full compliance of agreements related to buying energy from non-member countries. This was followed in February 2016 by European Commission proposals for new rules on EU gas supply security (COM(2016) 52 final) and new rules for energy agreements between EU and non-EU countries (COM(2016) 53 final).
Direct access to
- Shedding light on energy in the EU — A guided tour of energy statistics (digital publication) — 2017 edition
- Energy balance sheets — 2016 data — 2018 edition
- Energy balance sheets — 2015 data — 2017 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 statistics — 2019 edition
- Statistical analysis of EU trade in energy products, with focus on trade with the Russian Federation
- Energy (t_nrg), see:
- Energy statistics - main indicators (t_nrg_indic)
- Energy (nrg), see:
- Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quanta)
- Energy balances (nrg_bal)
- Supply, transformation and consumption - commodity balances (nrg_cb)
- Energy indicator (nrg_ind)
- Energy infrastructure and capacities (nrg_inf)
- Stocks (nrg_stk)
- Trade by partner country (nrg_t)
- Supply, transformation and consumption — commodity balances (ESMS metadata file — nrg_cb_esms)
- Energy Statistics Manual
- Energy balances (ESMS metadata file)