HOW Did COVID-19 change transport energy consumption in Europe

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered substantial societal shifts and reductions in energy consumption, influenced both by the virus itself and the governmental policies implemented to curb its spread. With the end of the pandemic, it is crucial to assess whether enduring behavioural changes have occurred as they may play a vital role in achieving Paris Agreement targets.

A new paper, published on Energy Policy and developed within CAPABLE, examines energy consumption patterns in the European transport sector during and after the pandemic and evaluates the role of containment policies. Using quantile regression analysis, the researchers quantify the effect of these policies on transport fuel consumption, with the Gradient Boosting Machines algorithm ranking their importance.

Gross inland deliveries (observed) per capita by fuel in Europe. Illustrates fuel consumption per capita from 2008 to 2022.

The results reveal significant reductions in motorised land transport and aviation use during the pandemic followed by distinct recovery patterns, with the former recovering faster than the latter. The COVID-19 policies that exerted the most influence on transport use were “school closures,” “cancelling of public events,” and “international travel controls.”

Lasting effect with and without prices. Panel A shows the lasting effect without the price effect and Panel B with the price effect included.

Diverse recovery patterns were observed among countries. While many countries swiftly rebounded to normality, lasting behavioural changes were seen in Sweden, Czechia, and Denmark. These countries offer valuable policy lessons for transitioning to a sustainable transport sector.

Read the paper

Patino-Artaza, H., C. King, L., Savin, I. (2024). Did COVID-19 really change our lifestyles? Evidence from transport energy consumption in Europe, Energy Policy, Volume 191, 2024,

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