Image: Camilla MP.
What is Energy Security?
What does it mean for a society to have “energy security”? Although there are more than forty different definitions of the concept, they all share the fundamental idea that energy supply should always meet energy demand. This also implies that energy supply needs to be constant – there can be no interruptions in the service. [1-4] For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy security as “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price”, the US Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) defines the concept as meaning that “the risks of interruption to energy supply are low”, and the EU defines it as a “stable and abundant supply of energy”. [5-7]
Historically, energy security was achieved by securing access to forests or peat bogs for thermal energy, and to human, animal, wind or water power sources for mechanical energy. With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, energy security came to depend on the supply of fossil fuels. As a theoretical concept, energy security is most closely related to the oil crises from the 1970s, when embargoes and price manipulations limited oil supply to Western nations. As a result, most industrialised societies still stockpile oil reserves that are equivalent to several months of consumption.
Although oil remains as vital to industrial economies as it was in the 1970s, mainly for transportation and agriculture, it’s now recognised that energy security in modern societies also depends on other infrastructures, such as those supplying gas, electricity, and even data. Furthermore, these infrastructures increasingly interconnect and depend on each other. For example, gas is an important fuel for power production, while the power grid is now required to operate gas pipelines. Power grids are needed to run data networks, and data networks are now needed to run power grids.
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