The role of energy quality in shaping long-term energy intensity in Europe

Ruta Gentvilaite, Astrid Kander, Paul Warde

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On the European aggregate level there is an inverted-U curve for long-term energy intensity. In the 19th century aggregate European energy intensity rose, followed by a declining trend during the 20th century. This article discusses the possible explanations for the declining trend during the 20th century and explores the role of energy quality as expressed in energy prices. For the first time a complete set of national energy retail prices covering two centuries has been constructed and used for Britain, while the energy price data previously available for Sweden until 2000 has been updated to 2009. This allows us to explore the role of energy quality in shaping long-term energy intensity. We find no relation between energy quality and energy intensity in the 19th century, while energy quality may have stimulated the declining energy intensity in Europe over the 20th century, but is not the sole or even main reason for the decline. Rather, increased economic efficiency in the use of energy services seems to have been the main driver for the decline after 1970, presumably driven by the information and communication technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-153
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Early online date26 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • energy quality
  • energy prices
  • energy intensity
  • Europe
  • England
  • Sweden

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