EU AMA: Exactly how much energy does the European Parliament consume?

In Ask Me Anything, we tackle questions about the European Union that intrigue and perplex. This month, Sean Craig crunched the numbers to find out more about the EP’s energy usage and whether it’s trending in the right direction
In 2021 the European Parliament used 161m kWh of energy – 99m of that from the HQ in Brussels | Photo: Alamy

By Sean Craig

Sean Craig is a business and investigative journalist who has contributed to The Daily Beast, the Financial Post, BuzzFeed News and Vice

22 Mar 2023

If the European Parliament could run on hot air, the chamber would power itself for all eternity at no cost and with a zero carbon footprint. Unfortunately, the bromides and broadsides of politicians generate headlines, not kilowatts. The legislative body, therefore, is left to scrounge for power like everyone else.

But just how much energy does the European Parliament consume? And is it trending in the right direction? The most recent figures amount to a cautious yes.

In 2021, the last year for which figures are available, the European Parliament used 161m kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy – 99m in Brussels, 30m in Luxembourg and 32m in Strasbourg, according to Parliament’s 2022 Environmental Statement.

Instead of relying on those big and unwieldy figures to determine whether it’s improving, the institution breaks down “energy” consumption – that’s gas, fuel and district heating – and electricity consumption on a full-time employee-equivalent (FTE) basis every year. This gives a picture of consumption that accounts for ever-changing staff levels.

The figures are prepared in accordance with the European standard, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), which Parliament used to establish an Environmental Management System in 2004.

When it comes to energy consumption (again, that’s gas, fuel and district heating), in 2021 the European Parliament consumed 4.4 kWh per FTE, or 26.8 per cent less than the baseline year 2012. The baseline year is 2012 because the institution currently has a 25 per cent reduction target between 2012 and 2024.

So things are on track, but that figure rose from 4.2 kWh per FTE in 2020 due to an especially cold winter, extra heating required for ventilation during the Covid-19 pandemic and the new Adenauer building in Luxembourg (which led to a 228 per cent increase in gas consumption at Parliament's Luxembourg location).

There is a bit of fine print – the annual energy consumption figure is averaged out on a three-year basis, to account for fluctuations. When 2021 is taken as a standalone year, energy consumption actually increased nine per cent per FTE, which pushed it out of the 25 per cent target goal.

Now on to electricity consumption: the roughly 7 kWh per FTE consumed in 2021 was 25 per cent less than the baseline year of 2012, compared to 2020 when it was down 19 per cent - in line with Parliament's 20 per cent reduction target.

Electricity use was driven down in part by remote work during the pandemic as well as a raft of efficiency initiatives including low-energy light bulbs.

Lastly, there’s one final important question: how much of this energy is renewable?

Since 2008, all the electricity purchased by Parliament has been “green”, which is to say it was purchased from certified renewable sources. But 2021 was a landmark year for renewable energy generation, which took place in all three sites for the first time via a combination of heat pumps, cogeneration and solar photovoltaic.

That brought renewable energy produced on-site up two per cent in 2021 to 19.4 per cent. However, that lags behind Parliament’s 25 per cent target for 2024.

If there’s not a solar panel or a heat pump at your building, expect to see some installation workers outside your building’s front door any day now.

Read the most recent articles written by Sean Craig - Meet The Press: Foreign Policy’s Anchal Vohra

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