Energy production and imports

From Statistics Explained

Data from March and May 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: March 2015.
Table 1: Energy production, 2002 and 2012
(million tonnes of oil equivalent) - Source: Eurostat (ten00076), (ten00080), (ten00077), (ten00079), (ten00078) and (ten00081)
Figure 1: Production of primary energy, EU-28, 2012
(% of total, based on tonnes of oil equivalent) - Source: Eurostat (ten00080), (ten00077), (ten00079), (ten00078), (ten00081) and (nrg_107a)
Figure 2: Development of the production of primary energy
(by fuel type), EU-28, 2002–12
(2002 = 100, based on tonnes of oil equivalent) - Source: Eurostat (ten00076), (ten00081), (ten00080), (ten00079), (ten00078) and (ten00077)
Table 2: Net imports of primary energy, 2002–12 - Source: Eurostat (nrg_100a) and (tps00001)
Table 3: Main origin of primary energy imports, EU-28, 2002–12
(% of extra EU-28 imports) - Source: Eurostat (nrg_122a), (nrg_123a) and (nrg_124a)
Table 4: Energy dependency rate, EU-28, 2002–12
(% of net imports in gross inland consumption and bunkers, based on tonnes of oil equivalent) - Source: Eurostat (nrg_100a), (nrg_102a) and (nrg_103a)
Figure 3: Energy dependency rate — all products, 2012
(% of net imports in gross inland consumption and bunkers, based on tonnes of oil equivalent) - Source: Eurostat (tsdcc310) and (nrg_100a)

The dependency of the European Union (EU) on energy imports, particularly of oil and more recently of gas, forms the backdrop for policy concerns relating to the security of energy supplies. This article looks at the production of primary energy in 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 (53.4 %) of the EU-28’s gross inland energy consumption in 2012 came from imported sources.

Main statistical findings

Primary production

Production of primary energy in the EU-28 totalled 794.3 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2012. This continued the generally downward trend observed in recent years, with 2010 the main exception as production rebounded after a relatively strong fall in 2009 that coincided with the financial and economic crisis. When viewed over a longer period, the production of primary energy in the EU-28 was 15.7 % lower in 2012 than it had been a decade earlier. The general downward trend of EU-28 production may, at least in part, be attributed to supplies of raw materials becoming exhausted and/or producers considering the exploitation of limited resources uneconomical.

The highest level of primary energy production among the EU Member States was in France, with a 16.8 % share of the EU-28 total, followed by Germany (15.6 %) and the United Kingdom (14.6 %). Compared with a decade earlier the main change was the fall in the share of the United Kingdom, down from 27.1 % — see Table 1. The only other Member States whose shares fell over this period were Denmark (-0.6 percentage points) and Lithuania (-0.4 percentage points). In absolute terms, the largest expansions in the production of primary energy during the 10 years to 2012 were registered in Italy and Sweden (both up 4.4 million toe), and the Netherlands (up 4.3 million toe).

Primary energy production in the EU-28 in 2012 was spread across a range of different energy sources, the most important of which in terms of the size of its contribution was nuclear energy (28.7 % of the total); the significance of nuclear fuel was particularly high in France, Belgium and Slovakia — where it accounted for more than half of the national production of primary energy. More than one fifth of the EU-28’s total production of primary energy was accounted for by renewable energy sources (22.3 %) and solid fuels (20.9 %, largely coal), while the share for natural gas was somewhat lower (16.8 %); crude oil (8.9 %) made up the remainder of the total (see Figure 1).

The growth of primary production from renewable energy sources exceeded that of all the other energy types. Growth in primary production from renewables was relatively stable most years from 2002 to 2012, with a slight dip in 2011 (see Figure 2). Over this 10-year period the production of renewables increased in total by 81.3 %. By contrast, the production levels for the other primary sources of energy generally fell over this period, the largest reductions being recorded for crude oil (-53.5 %), natural gas (-35.4 %) and solid fuels (-20.7 %), with a more modest fall of 10.9 % for nuclear energy.


The downturn in the primary production of hard coal, lignite, crude oil, natural gas and more recently nuclear energy led to a situation where the EU was increasingly reliant on primary energy imports in order to satisfy demand, although this situation stabilised in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis. The EU-28’s imports of primary energy exceeded exports by some 922.8 million toe in 2012. The largest net importers of primary energy were generally the most populous EU Member States, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Poland (where indigenous reserves of oil/natural gas and coal remain). Since 2004, the only net exporter of primary energy among the Member States has been Denmark (see Table 2).

The origin of EU-28 energy imports has changed somewhat in recent years, as Russia has maintained its position as the main supplier of crude oil and natural gas and emerged as the leading supplier of solid fuels (see Table 3). In 2012, some 33.7 % of the EU-28’s imports of crude oil were from Russia, slightly below the shares recorded for 2010 (34.7 %) and 2011 (34.8 %). Russia became the principal supplier of solid fuels in 2006, overtaking South Africa, having overtaken Australia in 2004 and Colombia in 2002. Russia’s share of EU-28 solid fuels imports rose from 13.1 % in 2002 to 30.0 % by 2009, before falling somewhat to 25.9 % by 2012. Despite this contraction, Russia remained the primary source of solid fuels imports into the EU in 2012, although its share was only slightly ahead of those recorded for Colombia (23.7 %) and the United States (23.0 %). By contrast, Russia’s share of EU-28 imports of natural gas declined from 45.2 % to 29.5 % between 2002 and 2010, but this trend was reversed with increases in 2011 and 2012. Qatar’s share of EU-28 imports of natural gas rose from less than 1 % in 2002 to 11.0 % in 2011, before dropping back to 8.4 % in 2012.

The security of the EU’s primary energy supplies may be threatened if a high proportion of imports are concentrated among relatively few partners. More than three quarters (76.8 %) of the EU-28’s imports of natural gas in 2012 came from Russia, Norway or Algeria — as such there was a greater concentration of imports than in the previous two years as the same three countries accounted for 71.0 % of natural gas imports in 2010 and 72.0 % in 2011. A similar analysis shows that 53.6 % of EU-28 crude oil imports came from Russia, Norway and Saudi Arabia in 2012, while 72.6 % of hard coal imports were from Russia, Colombia and the United States. Although their import volumes remain relatively small, there was some evidence of new partner countries emerging between 2002 and 2012. This was notably the case for crude oil imports from Nigeria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, or natural gas imports from Qatar.

EU-28 dependency on energy imports increased from less than 40 % of gross energy consumption in the 1980s to reach 53.4 % by 2012 (see Table 4). This latest figure marked a slight decrease in the dependency rate, which had stood at a high of 54.7 % in 2008. The highest energy dependency rates in 2012 were recorded for crude oil (88.2 %) and for natural gas (65.8 %). In the last decade (between 2002 and 2012), the EU’s dependency on non-member countries for supplies of natural gas (14.9 percentage points) and crude oil (11.9 percentage points) grew at a faster pace than for solid fuels (8.9 percentage points). Since 2004, the EU-28’s net imports of energy have been greater than its primary production; in other words, more than half of the EU-28’s gross inland energy consumption was supplied by net imports.

As it was a net exporter, Denmark was the only EU Member State in 2012 with a negative dependency rate (see Figure 3). Among the other Member States, the lowest dependency rates were recorded for Estonia, Romania, the Czech Republic and Sweden (the only other countries to report dependency rates below 30.0 %); meanwhile, Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus were (almost) entirely dependent on primary energy imports.

Data sources and availability

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-28’s energy comes from countries outside the EU — and this proportion has been generally rising over the last decade. Much of this energy comes from Russia, whose disputes with transit countries have threatened to disrupt supplies in recent years — for example, between 6 and 20 January 2009, gas flows from Russia via Ukraine were interrupted.

The European Commission adopted its second strategic energy review in November 2008. This addressed how the EU could reduce its dependency on imported energy, thereby improving its security of supply, as well as reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases. The review encouraged energy solidarity among EU Member States, proposed an action plan to secure sustainable energy supplies, and adopted a package of energy efficiency proposals aimed at making energy savings in key areas, such as buildings and energy-using products.

In response to the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis of January 2009, the legislative framework concerning the security of supplies was reviewed and in September 2009 the Council of the European Union adopted Directive 2009/119/ECimposing an obligation on EU Member States to maintain minimum stocks of crude oil and/or petroleum products. These 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 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.

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. 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 titled ‘The EU energy policy: engaging with partners beyond our borders’ (COM(2011) 539 final).

In November 2010, an initiative titled ‘Energy 2020 a strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy’ (COM(2010) 639 final) was adopted by the European Commission. This strategy defines energy priorities for a period of 10 years and puts forward actions that may be taken in order to tackle a variety of challenges, including achieving a market with competitive prices and secure supplies, boosting technological leadership, and effectively negotiating with international partners.

The same month, the European Commission adopted an initiative titled ‘Energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and beyond — a blueprint for an integrated European energy network’ (COM(2010) 677 final). This defines EU priority corridors for the transport of electricity, gas and oil. A toolbox is also proposed in order to facilitate a timely implementation of these priority infrastructures.

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, the south stream (between Russia and the EU via the Black Sea) scheduled to be completed by 2015 and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (connecting Turkey to Italy through Greece and Albania to bring gas from the Caspian Sea region to the EU).

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Energy statistics - quantities (t_nrg_quant)
Primary production of energy by resource (ten00076)
Primary production of renewable energy by type (ten00081)
Energy dependence (tsdcc310)


Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quant)
Energy statistics - supply, transformation, consumption (nrg_10)
Energy statistics - imports (by country of origin) (nrg_12)
Energy statistics - exports (by country of destination) (nrg_13)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links