An electricity sub-station

Energy security, systems and market

A modern energy infrastructure is crucial for an integrated energy market and to enable the EU to meet its broader climate and energy goals. Europe must modernise and expand its energy network to absorb energy from renewable sources and secure supplies everywhere. This requires considerable investment in the existing gas and electricity networks, with rapid development of their interconnections. Indeed, security of supply, competitiveness or sustainability goals will never be met without resilient, reliable and smart energy networks.

The JRC aims to provide a solid and comprehensive understanding of energy security in support of EU policy, notably in relation to fossil fuels (mainly gas and oil) and power systems. The aim of the JRC’s Energy Security Unit is to aid and inform the Member States and European Institutions on issues relevant to ensuring the uninterrupted physical availability of energy products on the market at an affordable price for all consumers. The JRC assesses how different policy options help shape an energy system resilient to shocks and adverse trends whilst satisfying society’s energy needs.

Smart Electricity Systems

Smart electricity systems, or smart grids, are electricity networks set up to continuously process and respond to the behaviour and actions of producers and consumers in order to efficiently deliver electricity supplies. Many countries in Europe and worldwide are now promoting concepts for smarter grids and ‘super grids’ (wide area transmission networks to trade high volumes of electricity across great distances) in order to integrate new resources and technologies in the power system, such as renewable energies, storage devices and electric vehicles.

Europe needs to invest in the modernisation of its energy infrastructure. Systems have to be upgraded and reshaped to foster sustainability, increase energy efficiency and enhance grid security. As the EU power grid is one of the largest and most complex systems in the world, this is a major technological, financial, societal and regulatory challenge. The JRC monitors the transition of the EU power network towards smart grids by developing models and making analysis. It is an international reference point for information on smart grid pilot and demonstration projects, as it monitors the developments, maintains a smart grid simulation centre, analyses the technological, social and economic factors involved and contributes to disseminate information on smarter electricity systems. The JRC launched the first comprehensive inventory of smart grid projects in Europe, which includes over 200 smart grid projects located across Europe. Project results provide an encouraging indication of how smart grids can help integrate more renewable energy, accommodate electric vehicles, give more control to consumers over their energy consumption, avoid blackouts and restore power quickly when outages do occur. In addition, the JRC has defined a comprehensive approach for cost-benefit analyses of smart grid projects. For this and other projects, the JRC collaborates with several key stakeholders, amongst others the US Department of Energy (DOE).

More information:

JRC's Smart Electricity Systems and Interoperability Website

Oil and Gas

Fossil fuels are by far the largest sources of energy in Europe. Oil, gas and coal represented just over 75% of gross inland consumption in 2010. While governmental support will ensure that alternative sources such as renewable energy increasingly contribute to the total energy supply, fossil fuels are widely projected to dominate the European energy mix until at least 2030. The EU focuses on securing oil and gas supplies for Europe and making the markets more transparent, fair and competitive.

Security of Gas Supply

Given the importance of hydrocarbons in the EU's energy mix, the strong dependence on foreign supplies, and the geopolitical uncertainty in many producer regions, it is vital to analyse the infrastructural requirements for guaranteeing the satisfaction of the European needs. In this context, the JRC develops and implements models to study the EU gas transmission system, the flows across borders providing techno-economic analyses of energy security. These models and methods enable the identification and analysis of potential crises and flaws affecting the gas infrastructure and markets. The JRC also supports Member States developing preventive action plans to avoid these flaws and setting up emergency preparedness scenarios in case there is an infrastructure or market disruption.

Most of the gas consumed in the EU is imported from other countries, which demands the use of a complex Gas Transmission Network in order to make gas accessible to different consumers. Key components in the EU gas transmission network are pipelines, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, compressor stations and Underground Storage (UGS) facilities, among others. All its components are subject to different hazards and threats of different sources which may seriously jeopardise the access of EU consumers to gas. The most rigorous way to study the potential effect of different disruption scenarios on the EU gas transmission network and its resilience is by means of models. These models must be able to simulate the network behaviour reasonably well under normal conditions and under gas disruptions and crises.

The JRC has two models to simulate gas crises: GEMFLOW and EU-GAS-10. GEMFLOW is a mass balance model where each EU Member State is a node. EU-GAS-10 is a hydraulic model at the level of facilities (pipeline, compressor station, etc.) for ten Eastern European countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia). Both models allow the simulation of gas crises. The JRC’s ongoing activities comprise the expansion of EU-GAS-10 (the Netherlands, Germany and Bulgaria), the construction of a new gas model with reliability assessment capabilities (GEMFLOW-reliability) and the modelling of a joint gas-electricity model to study interaction between both networks.

Risk Assessment of Gas 

On 10 October 2010, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Regulation 994/2010 on the security of gas supply. The Regulation aims at safeguarding the security of gas supply by ensuring the proper and continuous functioning of the internal natural gas market, by allowing exceptional measures when the market is not able to meet the gas needs of the EU and by establishing the responsibilities among the different stakeholders involved.

The key elements in the Regulation are the Risk Assessment, together with the Standards (Infrastructure Standard and Supply Standard) and the plans (Preventive Action Plan - PAP - and Emergency Plan - EP), which can be developed either at national or at regional level. The purpose of the Risk Assessment is to identify the set of scenarios that contribute most to risks of the gas system. The Standards aim at ensuring the supply of gas under specified system stress conditions (failure of largest infrastructure under severe weather conditions, among others). The goal of the PAP is to decrease the risk by different means. Finally, the Emergency Plan has to be designed in such a manner that the effects of gas crises are mitigated as much as possible should they occur.

The JRC is supporting the Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENERGY) and Member States in the implementation of this Regulation by identifying best practices in the development of Risk Assessments and Plans. The JRC is also supporting DG ENERGY in the review of Risk Assessments and Plans. This way the JRC is contributing to enhance security of gas supply in the EU.

Techno-Economic Assessments

Providing policy support actions for strengthening Europe's intertemporal security of supply requires an in-depth understanding of the prospects of low carbon technologies, the economics and the timing of their contribution to Europe's policy goals. Techno-economic assessments and modelling activities are a pillar to such analyses. The JRC develops modelling capabilities and utilizes them to analyse the techno-economic aspects of energy systems on a local, regional, pan-European and even global scale.

The JRC models the techno-economic aspects of energy systems and experience in the application of state-of-the-art modelling platforms (eg. TIAM, JRC-EU-TIMES, PLEXOS), with a special focus on energy security implications. Such analysis contribute to the evaluation of international and European energy systems and the integration of unconventional gas and oil resources. In particular, using these modelling techniques, the JRC has published the study Unconventional Gas: Potential Energy Market Impacts in the European Union.

Unconventional Hydrocarbons

Fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal are by far the largest sources of energy in the EU and are widely projected to dominate the European energy mix to at least 2030. In recent years, two key developments have shifted the focus to so-called ‘unconventionals’. The first has been mounting concern that growing demand for energy worldwide would outstrip supply. The second factor has been a dramatic increase in unconventional gas production in North America, to roughly 50% of domestic production.

Unconventional gas resources are thought to be, geographically, broadly distributed across all continents, including Europe. Their potential development may therefore offer a number of security-of-supply benefits for the Union: lower natural gas prices; more readily available gas on the European market; easing tightness in global energy markets; and adding diversity to the EU’s gas supplies. Unconventional gas typically includes shale gas, coal bed methane and tight gas, which all can produce natural gas, made up mostly by methane.

In February 2011, the European Council stated that “in order to further enhance its security of supply, Europe’s potential for sustainable extraction and use of conventional and unconventional (shale gas and oil shale) fossil fuel resources should be assessed”. In response to this the JRC recently published the study Unconventional Gas: Potential Energy Market Impacts in the European Union. The JRC will pursue its R&D on shale gas in the coming years, focusing on technology (safety and efficiency), economic impact and potential for Europe. Shale gas is hotly debated in Europe, as its benefits to energy supply, energy security, economic development must be balanced with concerns over environmental risks.

More information:

DG ENERGY's energy studies webpage

British Geological Survey's shale gas webpage

Oil and Gas Offshore safety

Offshore oil and gas are currently the main indigenous sources of hydrocarbon in the EU, covering an important fraction of our energy needs. Nevertheless, offshore drilling is not free of risks; major accidents with large consequences to human health, marine environment and coastal economies, may happen. Exploration activities are also moving towards deeper waters and borderline operations (e.g. high pressure – high temperature) and to more sensitive environments (e.g. Arctic), where hazards are more difficult to keep under control. 

The blowout of the Macondo well on 20 April 2010 had huge consequences. Eleven workers of the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ drilling rig died, the oil flow continued during almost three months, releasing almost five million barrels, which produced severe environmental and economic losses in the Gulf of Mexico. This event triggered the interest of the European Commission to study if the EU could be exposed to this type of calamity and to research the potential benefits of developing some legislation to decrease the associated risk. The JRC collaborates with other European Commission services to develop impact assessments in order to evaluate the potential benefits of different legislative options. The JRC is providing technical assistance and scientific support to the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy on the implementation of certain provisions of Community legislation on safety of offshore oil and gas activities. These activities include the technical secretariat of the EU Offshore Authorities Group (EUOAG), developing a baseline study and reviewing industry and regulatory best practices within the Member States, Norway and other countries (especially new developments after the Macondo accident), developing a common reporting format for data on incidents, near-misses and safety performance, and developing – together with the Member States – comprehensive guidance to terms and definitions and other selected topics of the proposed legislation.


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