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, which impacted energy use in the EU.
Total electricity supply in the EU increased by 4.2% compared to 2020, with preliminary data indicating a return to fossil fuels as the leading source, after the renewable category surpassed fossil fuels for electricity generation in 2020.
On the renewables side, preliminary 2021 data show the biggest increases in electricity produced from solar energy (+13.0%), followed by solid biofuels (+9.6%). On the other hand, due to unfavourable weather conditions, electricity generation from hydro and wind decreased (-1.2% and -3.0%, respectively).
At the same time, electricity generation from certain solid fossil fuels increased substantially in 2021: other bituminous coal (+25.6%) and lignite (+16.2 %).
Compared with 2020, the output of nuclear power plants increased by 7.0%.
On the level of individual energy carriers (fuels), the biggest contributors to the EU electricity generation system in 2021 were nuclear with 731 terawatt-hours (TWh), natural gas (550 TWh), wind (386 TWh), hydro (370 TWh), lignite (227 TWh), other bituminous coal (193 TWh), and solar (163 TWh).
This information comes from data on energy published by Eurostat recently. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.
Source dataset: nrg_ind_pehcf and nrg_ind_pehnf
Inland consumption of fossil fuels increased but remains below 2019 levels
Preliminary 2021 data indicate an increase in the EU’s inland consumption of fossil fuels, reflecting the EU’s economic recovery, as well as people’s lives returning to a somewhat normal level during that year, even if parts of the year were still very much irregular.
Following a massive fall of 12.4% in 2020 in petroleum products consumption, in 2021, estimates show a 5.0% increase compared with the previous year, but still below pre-pandemic levels. Compared with 2019, 2021 data show an 8.1% lower petroleum products consumption.
While solid fossil fuels increased by 13.7% in 2021 compared with 2020, when registering the lowest value at around 426 658 thousand tonnes, they are at the second-lowest level since 1990. Looking at 2019, consumption of these fuels is still below that level, also indicating an 8.0% drop. This evolution is expected, given the EU’s decarbonisation goals.
In 2021, coal consumption (brown coal and hard coal) increased but remained below 2019 levels and at the second-lowest point since 1990, indicating a continued decline following the effects of the pandemic combined with those of coal exit policies. Compared with 2020, the 2021 provisional data show increases of 14.7% for hard coal and 12.8% for brown coal, but compared with 2019, consumption dropped by 7.2% and 9.5%, respectively.
While prices for natural gas were rocketing, particularly in the second half of 2021, consumption was the highest recorded in the past ten years in the EU, reaching 15.8 million terajoules (TJ), indicating a 3.9% increase compared with 2020.
Natural gas net imports made up 86.4% of inland consumption in the EU in 2021, showing a 4.0% increase compared with 2020. In 2021, only 1.7 million TJ of natural gas came from domestic production, showing an 8.7% drop compared with the previous year. Stock draws (decreases in natural gas stored) in 2020 and in 2021 recorded the highest levels since 1990 (the first year for which data are available).
Source dataset: nrg_cb_sff, nrg_cb_gas and nrg_cb_oil
For more information:
• ‘Inland consumption’ refers to a calculated aggregate, represented as the sum of production, recovered and recycled products (when applicable), the trade balance (imports – exports) and stock changes, minus international marine bunkers.<…….