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EU looks to strengthen energy security - 04/06/2014

A network of orange gas pipelines © EU

The EU has proposed measures to ensure the security of its energy supply in the light of recent world events.

Europe depends on imports for over 50% of its energy, making it vulnerable to political events beyond EU borders.

Gas supplies are particularly vulnerable: while most of the EU's oil imports arrive by sea, gas is supplied through pipelines. This means  there is little scope for changing supply sources and routes if the need arises.

Action to improve Europe's energy security was taken after the gas supply was temporarily disrupted in the winters of 2006 and 2009.

However, tensions over Ukraine – through which gas pipelines run from Russia - have highlighted that it needs to be strengthened further.

Improving security

To ensure uninterrupted supplies this winter, the EU has proposed conducting “stress tests” - simulating a disruption of the gas supply to see how the energy system can cope. This will help in developing emergency plans and back-up mechanisms – such as increasing gas stocks – in case disruption occurs.

To improve security in the longer term, the EU proposes

  • diversifying the countries from which Europe imports energy. In 2013, over 90% of EU gas imports came from 4 countries: Russia, Algeria, Libya and Norway.
  • saving energy and improving infrastructure to make Europe's use of energy more efficient.
  • exploiting the EU's own energy resources. Europe's energy production fell by almost 20% between 1995 and 2012, but could be improved through sustainable production of fossil fuels and by increasing renewable supplies.
  • completing the internal energy market to aid the flow of energy within Europe. 6 EU countries depend on Russia for their entire gas supply, for example, and being able to divert energy where needed will help to reduce their vulnerability.

Next steps

The proposals - put forward by the European Commission - will be discussed by the leaders of the EU countries on 26-27 June.

Press release – strategy to strengthen energy security 

Q&A – energy security in the EU

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