Measuring Energy Security

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There is no single universally recognised way of measuring a country's level of energy security. Such assessments are normally a matter of expert judgment, as the perceived risk of a serious disruption or shortfall in investment for any given country or at any given time depends on a large array of different factors.

Some of these factors, such as political stability, are inherently difficult to measure. Nonetheless, most discussions centre on the following variables, or indicators:

■ Diversity of the primary fuel mix.

■ Import dependence and fuel substitutability.

■ Market concentration (the dominance of a small number of producing countries in total trade of any one fuel).

■ Share of politically unstable regions in imports.

For a given consuming country, what matters is both its own situation with respect to these indicators and that of all consuming countries. A given country may have a geographically highly diversified mix of imports from what are considered politically stable and reliable producing countries, but it still faces the risk of a price shock from a disruption to supplies from less stable producing countries to other consuming countries. For this reason, a reduction in a given country's imports does not necessarily enhance its own overall energy security, if the world's reliance on supplies from politically unstable countries is increasing. Likewise, rising import dependence does not necessarily mean less secure energy supplies: a flourishing international market can respond flexibly to unexpected events. Increased fuel diversity can contribute to lower import dependence for particular fuels.2

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