Table of contents

2.1.1. Primary energy supply

Europe relies upon a broad range of energy sources. Renewable energy supply (RES) in Europe (EU+) has grown significantly in the past two decades from 7 % in 1995 to 15 % in 2016 (see Figure 2‑1). Despite the growth in RES, the European energy system is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, with 85 % of the primary energy supply originating from fossil fuel sources. Oil, used primarily as a transport fuel, remains the most important primary energy source in Europe, accounting for 34% of the total primary energy supply in 2016. Natural gas is the second largest energy carrier and its share in the primary energy supply increased from 20 % in 1995 to 24 % in 2016 as it increasingly displaced coal for power generation. Some European countries continue to depend on coal (e.g. Germany and Poland), but the share of coal in primary energy supply declined from 22 % in 1995 to 15 % in 2016.

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Figure 2‑1 Sources of consumed energy in Europe (EU+), 1995-2016

Note: * Others represents energy from (non-renewable) waste, derived heat and electrical energy. Taken together, these have always represented less than 1 % of energy supply.

Source: Authors’ compilation based on data from (Eurostat, 2016) [nrg_100a].

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Europe produces significant amounts of fossil fuels. Poland and Germany, among others, have significant domestic coal production. Extraction from North Sea natural gas fields is carried out by Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Norway and the United Kingdom are also relevant oil producers in Europe. The majority of the United Kingdom resources are located offshore and associated production infrastructure (e.g. oil and gas rigs) is vulnerable to climate change through increased storm and wave damage, and disruption to transport connections to the mainland.

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Europe as a whole remains significantly dependent on imported fossil fuels, with over 50 % of these fuels being imported from outside the EU. Although the share of fossil energy carriers in the EU’s primary energy supply is slowly decreasing (as shown in Figure 2‑1), the dependency on energy imports is growing. Import dependency increased from 50 % in 1995 to 63 % in 2016 (Figure 2‑2). The import dependence is highest for oil, where 88 % of the supply comes from outside the EU, followed by natural gas where almost 70 % of the supply is imported. In total, the EU spends over €1 billion every day on energy imports, equivalent to approximately 2 % of the EU’s total GDP. Europe also imports almost all of its fuel for nuclear power since there is negligible uranium production in Europe. It is clear that imported energy is essential for the European economy to function.

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Figure 2‑2 Shares of domestic production and imports in the primary energy supply of the EU28 by energy source

Notes: PJ = petajoule. Electricity imports are not shown in this graph because net extra-EU energy imports were negligible. Data on the imports of renewables is not available either, even though it is growing. Finally, the graphic lacks data on nuclear fuel, which is virtually 100% imported.

Source: Authors’ compilation based on data from (Eurostat, 2016).

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Russia is currently the largest source of energy imports of coal, crude oil and natural gas for the EU. Norway is also important as it is one of the few large oil and gas producers in Europe. Almost one third of the EU’s gas imports and 12 % of its oil imports originate from Norway. Over 80 % of the EU’s natural gas imports originate from four countries (Russia, Norway, Algeria and Qatar). Oil and coal imports come from a more diverse range of countries. At EU-level, 37 % of natural gas imports come from Russia. This percentage is much higher in several Member States. Eight EU member states are dependent on Russia for more than 70 % of their natural gas supply, and Russia is the sole source of gas for the Baltic States, Finland, and Slovakia (EC, 2017e). The current degree of dependence from Russia could change as a result of new LNG infrastructure and new gas pipelines. LNG infrastructures and pipelines bypassing Russia (such as the Southern Gas Corridor, Azerbaijani gas to southern Europe) can in principle reduce it, while new pipelines between Russia and the EU (such as the Turkish Stream pipeline) can crowd out imports from alternate sources and hence increase it.

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Primary energy production (PEP) of RES has grown substantially in the EU+ between 2007 and 2016 (see Figure 2‑3). This growth has helped to offset some of the declining primary production of fossil fuels. Among the non-biofuel RES, growth has been fastest for wind and solar power, but hydropower remains the single largest source of renewable electricity production. Production of biofuels in Europe has increased by more than 50 % over the same period, mainly due to the increase in liquid biofuels and biogas. Solid biofuels are primarily used for heating. They form a large share of the heat supply in some countries, notably Sweden, Finland and Austria. Some power producers also burn solid biomass (see the case study in Section 4.6.3), but this comprises a relatively small share of the total. Liquid biofuels (bio-gasoline and biodiesel) are primarily used for transport. RES have become increasingly important to the European energy supply mix, a trend that is expected to continue. Therefore, their climate vulnerabilities are becoming increasingly important for the resilience of the European energy system.

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Figure 2‑3: Primary production of renewable energy in the EU+

Notes: PJ = petajoule.

Source: Authors’ compilation based on data from (Eurostat, 2018d).

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