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Regional insight – EU

EU carbon emissions declined for the first time in three years as renewables and energy-intensity declines squeezed fossil fuels from the generation mix

Fast facts

   After three years of increases, the European Union (EU’s) primary energy demand returned to decline, spurred by contractions in fossil fuel consumption


2    The decline in primary energy came despite above average economic growth, reflecting steady progress in reducing energy intensity


3    Declining demand and strong growth in renewables squeezed gas and coal’s share from the power mix, helping to drive 2% decline in overall emissions

-0.2% – Primary energy declined for first time in 3 years
Primary energy declined for first time in 3 years
5% – Growth in renewable power generation
Growth in renewable power generation
-2% – Emissions decline in 2018
Emissions decline in 2018
-9.3% – Decline in EU coal consumption in 2018
Decline in EU coal consumption in 2018

At a glance

  • Primary energy consumption in the EU declined by 4 Mtoe (0.2%). This was the first decline in three years although the rate of decline was less than the 10-year annual average of 0.5% (-13 Mtoe).
  • Oil consumption declined by 50 Kb/d (0.4%,) led by a steep drop in diesel principally reflected a slowdown in industrial activity, especially in Germany.
  • The only transport fuel to post growth was jet fuel (+50 Kb/d) owing to steady recovery in household incomes, competition among low cost carriers and airlines hedging at low prices.
  • Gas demand declined by 6 Mtoe (1.6%) and coal declined 12 Mtoe (5.1%). Both contractions were supported by falling share of power generation. This squeeze on fossil fuels in power generation reflected strong growth in wind, solar and hydro and declining overall electricity demand.
  • The share of electricity generated from coal fell to 20% compared to 30% just over 10 years ago.
  • Wind and solar output increased by 5% and 7% respectively. These rates are below the global average reflecting the relatively mature status of European markets. Renewables made up nearly 10% of primary energy and 22% of power generation.
  • Nuclear output continued to fall, declining 1 Mtoe in 2018, although this was slower than the average rate of 2 Mtoe per annum over the previous decade.
  • Carbon emissions declined by 70 Mt (2.0%). This and Europe’s above-average economic growth rate meant the EU’s carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit GDP) declined by 4%, well ahead of the global average decline of 1.6%. This above average growth came even though EU carbon intensity is already ~40% below the global average level.
  • Similarly, the EU’s overall energy intensity (the amount of energy required per unit of GDP) declined by 2.3% in 2018, over three times the global average rate of improvement of -0.7%.