The European Union imports over half (53%) of all the energy it consumes. This heavy dependency on energy imports can have geopolitical ramifications, as Russian threats to “turn off the gas” during the height of the Ukraine crisis made crystal clear. Achieving energy security is therefore an important goal for many EU Member States.

Since the Ukraine crisis, efforts have been made to diversify energy suppliers. The Baltic state of Lithuania, for example, completed a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in 2014, allowing it to break the monopoly enjoyed by Russian gas and instead import gas from Norway (and, eventually, from the USA).

However, the collapse of global oil prices might have thrown a spanner in the works. Since 2014, the price of oil has fallen by over 70%. With Saudi Arabia keen to keep production high in order to maintain its market share, coupled with a slowdown in China and the lifting of sanctions against Iran, oil prices could indeed fall further. What does this mean for energy security in Europe? Does cheap oil make it harder for Europe to break its dependency on energy imports?

Want to learn more about energy security in Europe? Have a look at our infographic below (click for a larger image):

E4C - Energy Security

We had a comment sent in from Yannick arguing that energy security in Europe would only be achievable through renewable technology; “energy security means sustainable energy.

Is Yannick right? To get a response, we spoke to energy journalist Sergio Matalucci to see whether he agreed that renewables are the only way to guarantee energy security in Europe. What would he say?

matalucciI think there is not one single solution. First, because different countries have different renewable potential. For example, there has been too much emphasis on wind power in Italy, when it’s clear that Italy has lots of sun. Nevertheless, renewables are important and are going to be the solution in the long-term.

Nowadays, they are still relatively expensive [and] the fact that the oil price is collapsing poses a threat for renewables in the medium-term – i.e. the next three to five years… But, in general, I think that renewables are going to be the backbone of European energy over the next 20 years…

But what about over the medium-term? We had a comment from Drew arguing that low oil and gas prices would slow the transition to sustainable energy. Did Sergio Matalucci agree? What did he think would be the impact of low oil prices on the transition to renewables?

matalucciIt will not stop it. It’s basically impossible [the prevent the transition to renewables] for several reasons, not least that renewables are supported financially by governments and the European Union. So, renewables will continue to be important for Europe. Obviously, the fact that they have a stronger competitor in oil makes things a tad more complicated. There is not such a strong economic rational for renewables now. Which means that now is the moment that renewable technologies have to become cheaper…

But we also have to take into consideration the fact that the timespans are different. A renewable project takes a long time to implement; the design and construction of a photovoltaic park, for example, takes years. Whereas oil prices can go up and down in a matter of six months. So, prices are important, but are just one factor…

To get another perspective, we spoke to energy economist Claudia Kemfert, to hear what she had to say. How would she respond to Drew’s comment about the impact of low oil prices on renewables?

Finally, we also had a comment from Max, who wanted to know if fossil fuels could be used as “bridge technologies” to a sustainable energy mix via CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage. He says he don’t understand why it hasn’t been widely-adopted.

We put Max’s comment to Claudia Kemfert. What is CSS, and why isn’t it more popular as a solution to Europe’s energy question?

What’s the best way to improve energy security in Europe? Is renewable energy the only way to guarantee Europe’s energy security? Or has the collapse in oil prices changed the economic rational for low-carbon technologies? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Paul Cross
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


35 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar

      I agree! But, as for any transition, we have to consider the possible spill over effects of the change. The other problem of renewables is that we still have to find an efficient way to store electricity. There is none at the moment. Unfortunately.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Matej Zaggy Zagorc
      Yes, but not just wind and solar but also wave and osmosis PLUS a revolutionary change in energy storage/batteries.

  1. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Self-sufficiency is the only way to guarantee Europe’s energy security. Self-sufficiency means reducing energy consumption and generating what one spends. Both! Renewable energy is the most effective solution to address the necessary consumption of energy..

  2. avatar
    Katrin Mpakirtzi

    Rusia is europe too and if they dont want a new war between Europeans (100 million deads in 2′ war…we killed each other) and prefer turkislam(isis al kaida) as ”ally” its the most dangerous decision. There is a lot of energy in mediterranean but othomans want it- threaten us.. without any right..

  3. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    YES , renewable is cheap and simple to install . After topping out at nearly 7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2009, the national average PPA price has fallen to around 2.35 cents per kWh in 2014, driven by low-cost wind in the interior of the country–making wind energy competitive with wholesale electricity prices and conventionally generated power across many areas of the United States. By the time we reach 20% grid penetration of renewables, we seem on path to have storage costs down to roughly 1/10th of their current level. That’s a price at which a mix of solar, wind, and storage could outprice even current ‘baseload’ power in large fractions of the country and the world.

  4. avatar
    Ytje Poppinga

    Renewables are the only way for the future.
    But try to control the perversities of all kind of subsidies, that’s why some peolple want energy from from wind, even if other means are more favorable, like solar (Italy). But what about earth warmth? Geothermic possibilities? Each country has its own best choice!

  5. avatar

    There’s also research of other means to provide energy.. Wind and solar begin to sound big jokes

  6. avatar
    Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

    renewable energy sources is the only quarantee we actually have, especially in southern Europe,we should anbrace those technologies that can make as more independent and self sufficient is a great challenge but technology is the answer the only answer, it always was it always be

  7. avatar
    Mari Voie

    Hydro power from Norway. Clean, endless. I guess global warming will reduce the need for heating up here in the cold, so we will have surplus to share with Europe :-)

  8. avatar

    LNG is the best short and medium term strategy, the fact is that saying “EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes” it is wrong. More than 30% of total energy consumption is made up by electricity, which can be partially produced by renewable sources. The rest can’t really be substituted by renewable sources, at least not in the medium term. So the real issue is: “How can we secure the 53% of energy sources we import and we can’t really substitute with solar?”.

  9. avatar
    Emilio Chile Acosta

    Macho, despues de ver a los espanoles comprando ACEITE a los ITALIANOS pues que mas quieres? EL SOL NI EL AIRE NI EL MAR existen aqui, uff hehehe Vamosnos al CAIRBE que no es esto GLOBALIZACION SINO IDIOTIZACION.

  10. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Energy is the bottleneck that keeps europe from returning to full-employment. Since 1973 that every attempt at full-e,ployment is effectively interrupted by energy prices. Energy depedency destroys families.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Rui Duarte
      But oil is at its cheapest for years?!?!

  11. avatar

    Strategy of energy independence is rather simple: boosting of energy production based on wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy sources, acceleration of power storage equipment development and production, electrification of transport sector, conservation of energy and high enough targets.

  12. avatar
    Michael E. Lambert

    It should (and will be). Europe should even be the one exporting energy to Russia and Maghreb as we can optimise the production process and renewable energy are way easier to produce (especially if you produce the material to produce them in Europe too)

  13. avatar
    Paul Dijkshoorn

    Of course renewables will have to be the answer to not only the European energy need but also the mondial energy security once oil and gas have (partially) run out/become too expensive/ too much of a pollution. The EU can, as a massive market and strong educational climate be a frontrunner on the world-scale for renewables and in particular the research in making the more competitive tofossil fuels. The renewables which have to be invested in can greatly differ from each member state and I would almost advise for member states to specifically invest in the one that is most important for them (solar in the Southern states, off-shore wind for countries with massive coast lines, hydro for countries with raging rivers, biomass for all).

  14. avatar
    Angelo Ciani

    The haigh energia consumption in UE requires large supplies abroad. Renewable energy will never succed to produce the targeted. Russia is one of the supplies. So will be very difficolt for EU to help Ukraina in Russia – Ukraina discussion because the UE needs Russian gas.

  15. avatar
    Renato Toni

    Renewable energy is not the way to guarantee Europe’s energy security because the energy balance between traditional energy and renewable is in favour of traditional. In other words the pay back period of renewable is still too long.

  16. avatar

    2 way distribution optimization, new hubs, new and diverse sources, new storages, but most important is making sure each of the 28’s is energy autonomous and can survived on their own a certain amount of time. I don’t exclude nothing like coal, nuclear or whatever if they meet 2016 pollution standards. Big industry/energy guzzlers should negotiate their own energy sources and distribution apart form population.

  17. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    True, in the short term only nuclear power plants can make up for our energy supply deficit.

  18. avatar

    “Russian threats to “turn off the gas” during the height of the Ukraine crisis”
    Is there something I have missed?
    Of course Russia cannot continue to pump gas into Ukraine, which steals the gas and never pays what it owes. Ukraine is our energy security problem, not Russia.
    If you do not want to relate to facts instead of US propaganda, you will not have a energy security problem at all, you will eventually have WWIII

  19. avatar

    Use local fossil fuels and fracked gas

  20. avatar

    The biggest benefits that Europe (more precisely, european cities, towns and communities) can have in terms greater energy independence, is from bicycle infrastructure & energy efficiency refurbishments on buildings. They are directly reducing the need of the most imported energy types – fuel and natural gas, while the costs for investments are lowest and payoffs shorter. The next biggest wave of independence is the energy union, household batteries and distributed renewable energy production.

  21. avatar
    nate heney

    if we kill all humans then we wont use any energy *mind blown*

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