Energy Efficiency and Structural Change in the Netherlands, 1980–1995

Influence of Energy Efficiency, Dematerialization, and Economic Structure on National Energy Consumption


Department of Science, Technology and Society Utrecht University Padualaan 14 NL-3584 CH Utrecht The Netherlands http:www.chem.uu.nlnws


International agreement has been reached to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. One important way of decoupling CO2 emissions from economic growth is by introducing technical measures to improve energy efficiency. In this article, we assess the influence of developments in energy efficiency and economic structure on the total primary energy consumption in the Netherlands over the period 1980– 1995. We find a distinct decoupling of the economic growth and energy consumption of 1.5% per year in the 15-year analysis period. We measure (technical) changes in energy efficiency by changes in the energy consumption per physical unit of production or activity. The aggregate rate of (technical) energy-efficiency improvement was 1.4% per year over the period 1980–1995. The use of physical production indicators makes it possible to measure energy-efficiency developments without detailed surveys at a very low level of aggregation. When we look at economic structural changes over this period, we find that (i) no substantial shift took place at the level of the economic sectors that we distinguish; (ii) the most energy intensive subsectors grew much faster than the total economy; and (iii) at the subsector level, on average, a sizable decoupling of physical production and value added occurred. We conclude that structural changes, that is, changes in the composition of the economy, did not lead to a net decrease in the energy intensity of the Netherlands over the period 1980–1995.