Energy Security

Tensions over energy supply are nothing new, and look set to rise as competition over sources of fos

Modern economies depend on access to affordable energy - that much is a given. But that these resources are spread so unevenly among countries has led to significant vulnerabilities and tensions.

The term "energy security" loosely refers to the association between national security and availability of natural resources for energy consumption. The first things that the phrase calls to mind are wars over oilfields and gas pipelines, tensions between the west and the Middle East, or between the west and Russia.

Certainly the geopolitical aspect is important - competition over sources, the manipulation of supplies, attacks on infrastructure - as are accidents and natural disasters. Yet the phrase itself deserves to be understood a little better than that.

First, energy supply vulnerability is linked primarily to fossil fuels, so securing energy is closely tied to action against climate change. Although there are hundreds of years of petroleum left, a move to renewable energy is the most viable solution.

Second, amid all the political wrangling, it is easy to forget the plight of those affected by energy security. Fuel poverty remains a pressing problem across the world.

Energy cannot be secured in Europe without collective action, both in the long term - moving towards a low-carbon economy - and in the short to medium term - improving existing infrastructure and managing relationships with external energy providers. Energy co-operation is at the heart of European integration. A unique, single energy market binds all players to the same rules on competition and security of supply.

The EU meets more than 50 per cent of its energy demands from imported energy, a figure that will rise to 70 per cent in the next ten to 20 years if no action is taken.

In these straitened times, it remains to be seen how far all countries will put aside national interests to work together for a better, more secure future.