Energy supply : European problems
Energy security can be considered from two points of view : on one hand, with regard to energy-importing countries , the concept is related to the ability of these countries to have a steady stream of energy at reasonable prices; on the other hand , as regards the exporting countries , energy security is directly linked to the market prices of energy and the ability to export at prices that will enable them to obtain regular income sufficient to meet the domestic needs .
Turning now more specifically interest to Europe , the issue of energy security has emerged in all its evidence when international events have cast doubt on the continuity of gas supplies from Russia . On that occasion, the countries of the European continent have faced the same problem in different ways, and this has helped to highlight the differences between two types of possible approach to the issue of energy security by importing countries. The Western European governments have tended to confine the story to the chapters of economic policy, and have often treated with producing countries (mainly Russia, Algeria and Libya) and their firms pursuing the objectives of limiting the price. The governments of these countries tend to consider the political problems that arise between Russia and transit countries as disadvantageous to them how to Moscow, and aim to rapid resolutions of contractual disputes , while at the same time to minimize the appearance of claims related ( often political ) that would result in the continuation of the dispute.
The countries of Eastern Europe and Central and Eastern Europe ( the Visegrad Group – Poland , Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – Ukraine and Belarus ) have instead been influenced by political concerns that sink in cultural and historical disputes and other more political – strategic , both because of their Soviet past (which alters their relations with Russia , making them the most tense and wary ) , both for their fundamental characteristic of a transit country for Russian gas . For these reasons, the governments of these countries not only demonstrate greater willingness to oppose the imposition of contractual Russian counterparts , but together they can count on a greater negotiating power as key countries for the gas flow to the major consuming countries of Western Europe .
This rift between the two ways of thinking about energy security to the formation of a compact face of consumer countries , and in the past has often risked undermining the intra- European solidarity . On the other hand , Russia has every interest in keeping disunited group of countries consumers of gas, so we can deal with each state and dilute the weight of European energy security in dozens of national cases .
No government in the world has ever been able to ignore the issue of energy security, because the operation of the state machine and the well-being of its citizens depend on the level of satisfaction of the domestic energy demand and the predictability of trends in the amount of energy available in the future. However, with the increasing dependence on gas and oil for industrial use , heating and transport , and because of the unequal distribution of hydrocarbons in the various countries of the world, international tensions and issues of energy security have been growing .
Between 2001 and 2008 , in addition, four factors of political and economic nature have combined to produce an overall sense of energy insecurity in western countries , and especially in Europe , which until a few years before they enjoyed a privileged position in world markets from the point of view of the possibility of purchasing and accumulation of inventories held :
• increase in the price of hydrocarbons. if the average price of gas in 2001 was $ 2 per MMBTU ( one million British thermal units , the unit of measure that allows the comparison of different energy sources through their heat output ) , in 2008 it was more than fivefold , and touched $ 11 fee . Similarly, the price of oil, which in 2001 was assestava around $ 5 per MMBTU in 2008 had peaked at $ 22 . The rapid rise in prices is forcing countries that depend on foreign countries for a large proportion of their energy supply to squeeze disposable income per household with equal energy (compression indirectly through a tax increase or a destination of a majority stake State budget to the satisfaction of energy needs , or direct cause of the increase in price of petrol , gas and industrial end-users) .
• ‘ gas crisis ‘ in Eastern Europe. For Europe, high energy prices risked further growth , and gas supplies to be interrupted , because of disagreements between Naftogaz , the national gas company of Ukraine and Gazprom , its Russian supplier , which peaked in early 2006. European Union countries depend on Russia for about 38% of the total supply of gas, and 80% of that gas reaches Europe transiting Ukraine. In the dispute between Gazprom and Naftogaz , Russia demanded that the Ukrainian company or its government intervene to settle the debts accumulated by Gazprom , and at the same time was eager to renegotiate upwards (compared to the low price of favor ) the multi-year supply contract , or alternatively revise downward the costs of transit through the territory of Ukraine. The interruption for three days ( 1 to 4 January 2006) of all gas supplies to Ukraine – and , consequently, to Europe – European governments are intimidated and forced them to put their hands to their energy supplies . In 2007 he returned to intensify a similar crisis with Belarus (formerly occurred in 2004 ) , and in the meantime the dispute between Moscow and Kiev dragged on through thick and thin until the end of 2009, with two peaks of reduction disbursement of Russian gas in March 2008 and again in January 2009 that forced some European countries to rely on domestic stocks .
• competition from China . Since 2001, the growing Chinese energy needs have led Beijing to direct new investment into the hydrocarbon-rich Central Asian countries , such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and to seek to enter into new supply contracts with them , putting at risk the future possibility of supply on the European side . In particular, Beijing is funding the Turkmenistan -China gas pipeline , which went into operation in 2014 and will carry up to 15 bmc / y ( billion cubic meters of gas per year .)
• attention to climate change . Although the variables which have a more significant effect on European energy security are constituted by energy prices , political instability and the emergence of new competitors , the importance that the issue of climate change has acquired the political agenda of European governments exerts a significant influence. The attention of the public and the more accurate scientific predictions push in favor of renewables. This drive may still not be in contradiction with some precautions energy diversification that have already been adopted by European governments .
The result of the interaction of these four factors , broadly contemporary , led Western governments to better specify their energy policies to try to keep the perceived safety of a stable level over time. The policies go in different directions , but particularly place emphasize on the need to :
1. The internal diversify the energy mix , that the national share of electricity generated by different energy sources . The goal is to become less dependent on fossil fuels ( coal, oil and gas ), which would need to be imported, and to develop other sources of energy in the country ( nuclear , hydroelectric, solar, wind , etc.). .
2 . Diversify suppliers – what is often impossible , since the cost of transportation of hydrocarbons and the geographic concentration of reserves make the naturally oligopolistic energy market – or at least the routes of supply . For this reason, European governments have launched independently or in collaboration with Russia, the Nord Stream gas pipeline projects ( which, starting from Vyborg , Russia , Germany would reach through the North Sea) , Nabucco and South Stream ( which, passing Turkey or its territorial waters would reach Bulgaria and from there to European countries) . These pipelines would transport Russian gas to Europe without having to transit countries for their problematic relations with Russia , such as Ukraine , Belarus and Poland .
3 . Reduce domestic consumption and / or increase energy efficiency. It goes without saying that a country that consumes less energy is less dependent on its imports from outside. In this sense, the European Union has acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in 2006 , and his promise to cut energy consumption by 20 % by 2020 and 19 May 2010, the EU Council and Parliament adopted a directive on the minimum standard of energy performance of buildings (inside of which is used about 40% of the total energy consumed ) .