Study Notes

Energy Security

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The ability of a nation to secure sufficient, affordable and consistent energy supplies for its domestic, industrial, transport and military requirements is termed Energy Security. It means that current and future energy needs have a high probability of being met, irrespective of economic or political instability.

Given that energy demand covers a number of different forms of energy – oil for transport, gas for domestic heating and cooking, electricity for – multiple uses, then an energy-secure state means having available access to a variety of energy sources.

The concept of Energy Security is paired with that of Energy Dependency: a measure that calculates the proportion of total energy consumption that is dependent upon imported energy. Countries with a low Energy Dependency are more likely to enjoy Energy Security.

Countries can try to achieve energy security through a range of strategies:

  • Exploiting own resources to achieve as close to full self-sufficiency as possible. Norway, with a population of just over 5 million people, can meet 96% of its energy needs by exploiting its HEP resources and offshore oil and gas fields. In fact, it has a surplus of energy that it exports to neighbouring countries, such as a long-distance undersea gas pipeline to the UK.
  • Supplementing own energy resources with imports from reliable and consistent supplier nations. The USA and Canada form the largest integrated energy network in the world with Canada being a net exporter of gas and oil to the USA, a net importer of coal from the USA, and both countries co-supply each other with electricity in different regions.
  • Importing energy from a wide range of suppliers. If one energy producer falls out of favour due to price, supply or political factors, custom can be switched to alternative sources relatively simply. Japan, with relatively few energy resources of its own, imports Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from more than five countries ranging from Indonesia (51%) to the USA (3%).
  • Switching supply so there is less dependency on imports. The USA has significantly reduced oil and gas imports from the Middle East and South America in the last 20 years by exploiting its own deep onshore shale gas through a controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.
  • Reducing domestic demand for energy. Increasing insulation of homes, encouraging greater cycle use rather than cars, and subsidising solar panels for house and business roofs can assist attempts to reduce the need to rely on other countries for energy supplies.

An example of energy insecurity has arisen in recent years in central and eastern Europe as political friction has grown between Ukraine and Russia.

Russia exports much of its vast natural gas supplies to a number of European countries via pipelines, some of which pass through Ukraine. The conflict has meant that importing countries such as Slovenia and Hungary have suffered gas shortages when Russia has cut off the gas supply to Ukraine, by affecting countries further down the supply line.

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