SDG 7 - Affordable and clean energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all


Data extracted in May 2021.

Planned article update: June 2022.

Highlights


EU trend of SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy


This article provides an overview of statistical data on SDG 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’ in the European Union (EU). It is based on the set of EU SDG indicators for monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in an EU context.

This article is a part of a set of statistical articles, which are based on the Eurostat publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGS in an EU context — 2021 edition’. This report is the fifth edition of Eurostat’s series of monitoring reports on sustainable development, which provide a quantitative assessment of progress of the EU towards the SDGs in an EU context.

SDG 7 calls for ensuring universal access to modern energy services, improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy. To accelerate the transition to an affordable, reliable and sustainable energy system that fulfils these demands, countries need to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology and to promote investment in resource- and energy-efficient solutions and low-carbon energy infrastructure.

Full article

Affordable and clean energy in the EU: overview and key trends

Monitoring SDG 7 in an EU context involves looking at developments in energy consumption, energy supply and access to affordable energy. As shown in Table 1, progress in these areas over the past few years has been mixed. While the EU improved its energy productivity and the greenhouse gas emission intensity of energy consumption, data up to the year 2019 show that energy consumption itself has risen since 2014. However, due to a remarkable drop in energy consumption estimated for 2020 following measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU might still meet its 2020 target. Achieving the 2030 target, however, is likely to remain difficult. In energy supply, the use of renewable energies further increased with moderate progress towards the 2030 target, while the dependence on energy imports from outside the EU keeps rising. On a positive note, the share of people who are able to keep their homes adequately warm has risen continuously.

Energy consumption

Increasing the EU economy’s energy efficiency is one of the main pillars for reaching an affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy system as envisaged in SDG 7. Efficient energy systems reduce consumption and costs, decrease energy dependencies and diminish the environmental and climate impacts linked to energy supply and use. The EU consequently aims to improve energy efficiency along the whole energy supply chain.

The EU is not on track to meet its 2030 energy efficiency target

The EU aims to increase its energy efficiency by at least 20 % by 2020 and 32.5 % by 2030. Because these targets were set in relation to business-as-usual projections of energy consumption, they have been translated into absolute levels of energy consumption for monitoring purposes. This means that by 2020, the unofficial milestone for the EU without the UK is that energy consumption should not exceed 1 312 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) of primary energy and 959 Mtoe of final energy [1]. By 2030, the EU should not consume more than 1 128 Mtoe of primary and 846 Mtoe of final energy [2].

Primary energy consumption in the EU began the period between 2004 and 2019 on an upward trend that peaked in 2006, before falling to 1 351.9 Mtoe in 2019. Over the whole period, primary energy consumption fell by 141.8 Mtoe or 9.5 %. In comparison, final energy consumption fell by only 52.8 Mtoe or 5.1 %, reaching 983.6 Mtoe in 2019. Progress on both fronts was due to various factors, including a structural transition towards less energy-intensive industries in many Member States and improvements in end-use efficiency in the residential sector.

However, increases in primary and final energy consumption between 2014 and 2017 partly reflect a return to average heating demand after an exceptionally warm 2014 and stronger year-on-year economic growth, which could not be offset by energy savings [3]. Following this increase, small reductions in primary energy consumption and stabilisation of final energy consumption in 2018 and 2019 may be traced back to a general increase in energy efficiency. However, this improvement was partly offset by higher consumption in the service sector, rising industrial production and growth in the number of households [4].

If the short-term trend observed between 2014 and 2019 continues, the EU could miss both its 2020 and 2030 reduction targets for primary and final energy consumption. However, preliminary data for 2020 indicate the EU might still meet its 2020 target due to a remarkable drop in energy consumption in that year. This is mainly a result of the measures taken to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on public life. In addition, long-term trends such as the further increase in energy efficiency and of renewable energies in the energy mix [5], as well as comparatively mild weather in 2020, may further help to reduce energy consumption [6]

Figure 1: Primary and final energy consumption, EU, 2000-2019 (million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe))
Source: Eurostat (sdg_07_10) and (sdg_07_11)


EU citizens did not reduce their energy consumption at home between 2014 and 2019

Households account for about a quarter of final energy consumption. At home, people use energy in particular for heating, cooling, cooking, lighting, sanitary purposes and appliances. The level of household energy consumption mainly depends on outdoor temperatures, the energy performance of buildings, the use and efficiency of electrical appliances, and the behaviour and the economic status of inhabitants (for example, their desired or affordable level of thermal comfort, frequency of clothes washing, use of TV-sets, games and lighting preferences).

In 2019, the average household energy consumption was 550 kilograms of oil equivalent (kgoe) per EU inhabitant, which is 3.8 % more than in 2014. The slight increase over the past five years is a result of an exceptionally low household energy consumption in 2014 when a very warm European winter reduced heating demand. However, household energy consumption appears to have stagnated in other years covered by the period.

When viewed over the longer term, efficiency improvements, in particular in space heating, seem to have balanced the effect of population growth and increases in the number and size of dwellings. Since 2004, energy consumption per EU inhabitant has fallen by 9.7 %, with a slight downward trend in total household energy consumption offsetting a 3.2 % or 14.1 million [7] increase in the population over the same period.

Figure 2: Final energy consumption in households per capita, EU, 2000-2019 (kg of oil equivalent)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_07_20)


The EU has reduced its energy intensity and related greenhouse gas emissions

Historically, economies have developed in line with an increase in consumption as greater resource and energy use spurs on economic growth. However, to tackle the climate crisis, energy consumption needs to fall [8]. Green growth strategies such as the European Green Deal therefore call for a ‘decoupling’ of economic growth from energy consumption. This would allow the economy to continue to grow while reducing its energy consumption.

Recent trends in Europe point to such a decoupling of economic growth from energy consumption, which are measured here using gross domestic product (GDP) and gross available energy (GAE) respectively. Between 2004 and 2014, GAE in the EU fell by 10.6 % before more or less stabilising up to 2019. Over the same 15-year period, GDP grew by 22.2 % with a dip in 2009 during the economic crisis [9]. As a result, energy productivity — which measures GDP per unit of energy input — has continuously increased since 2004, reaching EUR 8.4 per kgoe in 2019, with all Member States contributing to this positive trend.

The way to weaken the exacerbating effects of energy consumption on climate change is to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity — the ratio between energy-related GHG emissions and gross inland energy consumption. Between 2004 and 2019 [10], GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion for energy generation fell by 22.6 % while energy consumption fell by only 8.8 %, leading to a 15.1 % fall in GHG intensity. The greater reduction in GHG emissions compared with the reduction in energy consumption was mainly the result of a rising share of renewable energies in the energy mix and falling consumption of primarily oil products and coal. The increased use of gas in some countries has also contributed to this trend as it tends to be less GHG intensive than other fossil fuels [11]. However, the two variables remain strongly linked.

Figure 3: Energy productivity, EU, 2000-2019 (EUR per kgoe)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_07_30)


Energy supply

To achieve the SDG 7 aim of ensuring an affordable and clean energy system, the EU is seeking to increase the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption to 20 % by 2020 [12] and to at least 32 % by 2030 [13]. Most renewable energy sources are considered to be practically inexhaustible or renew within a human lifetime. In contrast, fossil energy sources regenerate over millions of years and are the main source of man-made GHG emissions, thus contributing significantly to climate change. The EU highlights the importance of renewable energy sources to the goal of decarbonising the EU energy system (see also the article on SDG 13 ‘ Climate action’).

The EU must also reduce its dependency on energy imports, which mostly comprise natural gas, crude oil and coal imports. Importing energy exposes the EU economy to significant costs and to the risk of supply shortages, for example due to geopolitical conflicts. The risks increase as dependency on a single country grows. Therefore, the EU seeks to become more energy independent through increased domestic energy production (in particular from renewable energy sources), increased energy efficiency and moderation of demand, as well as through the implementation of infrastructure which will allow clean energy to be distributed across the EU.

The share of renewables has kept rising, but progress has slowed

Use of renewable energy has grown continuously in the EU, with its share doubling since 2004 when renewables covered only 9.6 % of gross final energy consumption. By 2019, this figure had reached 19.7 %. Reductions in investment costs, more efficient technologies, supply chain improvements and competitive support schemes for renewable energy sources have driven this increase [14]. Due to this steady growth, the EU is on track to meeting its 2020 target to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 % by 2020. But current progress is not fast enough to meet the 32 % target in 2030.

The share of renewable energy grew in all of the three areas monitored here, namely electricity, heating and cooling, and transport. In 2019, the share of renewables was highest in electricity generation at 34.1 %, followed by heating and cooling at 22.1 %, and transport at 8.9 %. Since 2004, the share of renewable energy in transport has increased almost six-fold, up from only 1.6 %. If the trend continues at this pace, the EU will meet its 2030 target for renewables to supply at least 14 % of the energy consumed in road and rail transport [15]. The second largest increase was realised in electricity generation where renewables doubled their share, closely followed by heating and cooling.

In 2019, the share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption varied widely across Member States, due to differences in the availability of renewable sources and financial and regulatory support. Sweden had a substantial lead with a share of 56.4 % followed by Finland and Latvia with shares of 43.1 % and 41.0 %, respectively. These particularly high shares were reached through the use of hydropower and solid biofuels. Still, wind and solar energy have also increasingly contributed to the growth of renewable energy in final energy consumption in most EU countries.

Figure 4: Share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption, by sector, EU, 2004-2019 (%)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_07_40)

Imports of fossil fuels still cover more than half of the EU’s energy demand

Despite continuous growth of renewable energy sources over the past decade, fuel imports from non-EU countries remained almost stable and the EU’s energy dependence has not improved over the past two decades. While 56.9 % of the gross available energy within the EU was imported in 2004, this share had risen to 60.7 % by 2019. This increase in the EU’s energy dependence was mainly due to growth in the shares of imported natural gas and solid fuels, which rose by 22.9 and 7.9 percentage points, respectively. The increase in imports can be explained by a reduction in primary production within in the EU because of exhausted or uneconomical domestic sources [16].

In 2019, imports were highest for oil and petroleum products (96.8 % imported), followed by natural gas (89.7 % imported) and solid fuels (predominantly coal) (44.0 % imported). Imports of renewable energy including biofuels accounted for 8.3 % of gross available renewable energy in 2019 and just 1.4 % of total imports [17].

Russia continued to be the main supplier of energy to the EU in 2019, accounting for 41.1 % of gas imports, 29.0 % of petroleum product imports and 46.7 % of solid fuel imports from outside the EU. The next largest suppliers of gas were European countries that are not part of the EU (mainly Norway), delivering 19.4 % of gas imports. For oil and petroleum products, Africa and the Middle East were the next largest suppliers after Russia, both at around 17 %. The second largest source for solid fuels was North America at 20.0 % [18]. All percentages reported here refer to shares of total imports from outside the EU only, so do not account for energy traded between Member States.

In 2019, all Member States were net importers of energy, with 17 importing more than half their total energy consumption from other countries (EU countries and non-EU countries). Countries with the highest shares of imports in 2019 were the island countries Malta (97.2 %) and Cyprus (92.8 %), as well as Luxemburg (95.1 %), which covered virtually all of their energy needs with imports.

Between 2014 and 2019, the greatest progress in reducing overall energy dependence was observed in Estonia. This was realised through an increase in domestic renewable energy production (mainly bioenergy) and a reduction of energy consumption which led to a reduced need for fossil fuel imports [19].

Figure 5: Energy import dependency, by product, EU, 2000-2019 (% of imports in gross available energy)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_07_50)


Access to affordable energy

SDG 7 emphasises the need for affordable energy for reasons of social equality and justice. The European Pillar of Social Rights also places energy among the essential services everyone should have access to. The inability to keep the home adequately warm is a survey-based indicator used to monitor access to affordable energy throughout the EU. A lack of access to affordable energy is strongly associated with low levels of income in combination with high expenditure on energy and poor building efficiency standards [20]. Poverty alleviation can therefore improve the ability to keep a home warm (or cool) by enabling people to pay for their energy costs and to invest and shift their behaviour to reduce their overall energy needs (see also the article on SDG 1 ‘No poverty’).

Access to affordable energy has improved since 2012

The EU has made some progress on improving access to affordable energy over the past few years. Since 2012, the share of people unable to keep their homes adequately warm has steadily decreased, reaching 6.9 % in 2019 — 3.5 percentage points lower than in 2014. This overall figure, however, masks that almost a fifth of the poorer EU population suffered from energy poverty. In 2019, 18.2 % of people with an income below the poverty threshold reported an inability to keep their home adequately warm, in contrast to only 4.6 % of people that are above the poverty threshold.

In 2019, 21 Member States indicated that less than 10 % of their population reported an inability to keep their homes adequately warm. Northern and most western European countries, with particularly cold winters, had the lowest shares of people without access to heating. In contrast, lack of access to affordable heating seemed to be a problem particularly in southern and south-eastern Europe. This distribution can be traced back mainly to poor building energy efficiency, including the lack of suitable heating systems and insulation, leading to low indoor temperatures during winter. Other reasons include the general income level which affects housing standards and ability to pay for fuels and the existence and design of financial interventions by the respective governments [21].

Figure 6: Population unable to keep home adequately warm, EU, 2010-2019 (% of population)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_07_60)


Context

Everyday life depends on reliable and affordable energy services, such as electricity supply and heating and cooling, as well as transport services. Energy enables the smooth functioning of all economic sectors, from business and industry to agriculture. The EU still relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy and faces a number of challenges to securing affordable, reliable and sustainable energy supplies. Reducing total energy consumption and using renewable energies, while ensuring security of supply, competitiveness and access to affordable energy for all its citizens, are some of the ways the EU can contribute to achieving SDG 7. As reflected in the Europe 2030 climate and energy framework, increased energy efficiency and a shift towards renewable energy production are crucial for the EU, especially in light of the climate crisis.

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More detailed information on EU SDG indicators for monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as indicator relevance, definitions, methodological notes, background and potential linkages, can be found in the introduction of the publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGS in an EU context — 2021 edition’.

Notes

  1. Eurostat (2021), Energy saving statistics: Energy efficiency targets for 2020 and 2030 — Statistics Explained.
  2. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2019), Decision amending directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.
  3. European Commission (2019), Energy efficiency progress report, COM(2019) 224 final, Brussels.
  4. Eurostat (online data codes: (nrg_bal_c)); European Commission (2020), 2020 assessment of the progress made by Member States towards the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU and towards the deployment of nearly zero-energy buildings and cost-optimal minimum energy performance requirements in the EU in accordance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU, COM(2020) 954 final.
  5. The substitution of fossil energy by renewable energies leads to a reduction of PEC via a statistical definition. The physical energy content method basically means that fossil and biogenic fuel input quantities are multiplied by their calorific value. Wind, hydropower or photovoltaics produce energy with an efficiency of 100 %, geothermal energy with 10 % and nuclear energy with 33 %. This means that PEC decreases disproportionately with increasing substitution of fossil and nuclear fuels by renewable energies.
  6. European Commission (2020), 2020 assessment of the progress made by Member States towards the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU and towards the deployment of nearly zero-energy buildings and cost-optimal minimum energy performance requirements in the EU in accordance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU, COM(2020) 954 final.
  7. Source: Eurostat (demo_gind).
  8. European Commission (2019), Clean energy — Factsheet 11. December 2019, Brussels.
  9. Source: Eurostat (nrg_bal_c) and (nama_10_gdp).
  10. 2019 data for GHG emissions presented in this report have been calculated based on the approximated estimates for greenhouse gas emissions published by the European Environment Agency on https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/approximated-estimates-for-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2.
  11. Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (nrg_bal_c)); IPCC (2021), Emission factor database (EFDB).
  12. European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (2009), Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.
  13. European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (2018), Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.
  14. European Commission (2019), Renewable energy progress report, COM(2019) 225 final, Brussels, p. 4.
  15. European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (2018), Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.
  16. Source: Eurostat (online data code: (nrg_bal_c)). Primary production
  17. Source: Eurostat (online data code: (nrg_bal_c)).
  18. Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (nrg_ti_sff), (nrg_ti_oil) and (nrg_ti_gas)). Import shares for natural gas were calculated in cubic meters; solid fuel and oil import shares were calculated in tonnes.
  19. Source: Eurostat (online data code: (nrg_bal_c). Primary production, Imports, GEA.
  20. COM (2020). Commission Recommendation on Energy Poverty, COM(2020) 1563, Brussels.
  21. Bouzarovski, S. and Tirado-Herrero, S. (2017), The energy divide: Integrating energy transitions, regional inequalities and poverty trends in the European Union. European Urban and Regional Studies; 24: pp. 69–86.