Energy and carbon intensity of the economy

The "Energy and carbon intensity of the economy" fact sheet examines the evolution of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in view of economic growth, in Portugal and in the EU-28. This fact sheet also addresses the emission of the gases generated by energy production and consumption, in relation to its internal consumption.


The energy intensity of an economy consists of the ratio between internal energy consumption and its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Historically, economic growth implies an increase in energy consumption, raising pressures on the environment.

This indicator enables the recognition of the desired decoupling between energy consumption and economic growth. Relative decoupling occurs when the increase in energy consumption is slower than economic growth. If energy consumption stabilizes or decreases, while GDP continues to grow, we have the absolute decoupling between these two variables, associated with the natural reduction of negative impacts on the environment.

There is evidence that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are responsible for the increase in temperature, resulting in climate changes of anthropogenic origin. As the EU undertook the commitment to reduce GHG emissions, the carbon intensity of the economy analyses the decoupling of GHG emissions from economic growth. In order to achieve this decoupling, energy efficiency and the substitution of fossil fuels by those from renewable sources are vital.

The use of renewable energy sources contributes to a reduction of GHG resulting from energy production and consumption, in comparison with internal energy consumption.

This fact sheet concerns Portugal and shall be updated on an annual basis.

Objectives and targets: 
  • Accelerate the convergence of national energy intensity to European levels, stimulating the use of more efficient technologies [National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency - PNAEE 2016];
  • In 2016, reduce energy consumption by approximately 8.2% compared to the average final energy consumption between 2001 and 2005, which is close to the EU's target of 9% energy savings by 2016 [PNAEE 2016 ];
  • General reduction target of 25% and Public Administration specific target of 30% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2020 [PNAEE 2016];
  • Under the EU's climate and energy action framework for 2030, in October 2014, a non-binding target was established, for reducing energy consumption at least 27% in relation to future energy consumption forecasts based on current criteria;
  • The National Program for Climate Change (PNAC 2020/2030) establishes the following targets:
    - Ensure a sustainable path of GHG emission reduction of -18% to -23% in 2020 (68-72 Mt CO2e) and -30% to -40% (52,7-61,5 CO2e) in 2030, compared to 2005 levels, ensuring compliance with national mitigation commitments and keeping Portugal in line with European and international objectives;
    - Sectoral GHG emission reduction in the following Non-ETS sectors:


PNAC sectoral targets for non-ETS sectors compared to 2005:

NON-ETS Sector  2020 2030
Services -65% -69%
Household -14% -15%
Transport -14% -26%
Agriculture -8% -11%
Waste* -14% -26%








*Waste waters included


  • In addition, Portugal is committed to ensuring the neutrality of its emissions by the end of the first half of the century.
Progress analysis:

The emphasis on energy efficiency is becoming visible in the energy intensity levels of the Portuguese economy, which have been declining since 2005 and starting to converge with the EU-28 average, although it has generally presented higher values. In 2015, there was an increase in energy intensity in Portugal, contrary to the downward trend of recent years, but in 2016 there was a slight decrease.


Last update: 
Thursday, 17 January, 2019