Europe's Energy Dependency

Updated on 05.02.2024
High School
History, geography and geopolitics

10 min read

A country’s energy dependency rate is the proportion of energy it imports divided by its total consumption.  Expressed as a percentage, it reflects how much an economy depends on other countries to meet its energy needs. If the dependency rate decreases, then the country is said to be making the transition toward “energy sovereignty”.  Using two tables, Planète Énergies explains the position of the European Union.

La dépendance énergétique de l’Europe

Europe imports almost 60% of its energy

Almost 60% of the  consumed by the European Union (EU) has to be imported from outside the EU.  Sources include oil, gas and .

Energy dependence has tended to increase since the 2000s and is particularly pronounced in the natural gas sector, owing in particular to the gradual dwindling of volumes in the North Sea gas fields. Gas is now one of the most frequently used energy sources, especially to replace coal, which causes greater pollution and higher CO2 emissions.

This table shows the EU (27 countries) energy dependency rate, and more specifically, the values related to natural gas.

Source : EU energy in figures 2023
In %200020102015201920202021
Dependency rate (all energies)57,857,457,662,359,157,1
Dependency rate on natural gas65,767,874,589,783,683,5
Comments on the table:
  • The decreases observed in 2010 and 2020/2021 are somewhat misleading - they correspond to the effects of a lower economic growth rate, the financial crisis of 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
  • Dependence on natural gas is particularly strong, and has grown considerably over the last ten years.

 

The impact of war in Ukraine

Among the countries that supply energy to the EU, Russia plays for a long time a crucial role in primary energy imports: in 2021, it provided 44% coal of natural gas.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has almost stopped Russian gas imports via pipelines. In May 2022, the European Commission presented a plan named "REPowerEU", which aims to move away from dependence on Russian hydrocarbons in three main ways:

  • diversifying sources of supply: Europe has increased its imports of , especially from the USA and Qatar;
  • reducing energy consumption in EU countries: natural gas consumption has been reduced by 18% in 2022 and 2023;
  • accelerate the development of renewable energies and relaunch nuclear in several countries.

How can a country reduce its dependency on energy imports?

By consuming less and using more local energy sources (renewable/nuclear).

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Highly variable energy dependency

The energy dependency rate varies to a greater or lesser extent, depending on each country’s own resources and the choices made as to their . Here is the table for five different countries:

Sources : EU energy in figures 2023
In %Global energy dependency in 2021
Italy74,7
Germany63,8
France44,4
Poland40,6
Sweden22,4
Comments on the table:
  • France lessens its dependence thanks to nuclear power, Poland draws on its national coal production and Sweden, on its nuclear and hydraulic capacities.
  • Germany, which has a very powerful industry, has relied heavily on Russian gas - available in large quantities at low cost - while developing renewable energies. By 2022, it had considerably diversified its imports.

 

What makes France, Poland and Sweden so energy-independent?

For France, nuclear power. Poland, coal. Sweden, hydro and nuclear. 

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