Energy security, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), is defined as the “uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price.” An influential approach to analyzing energy security has been the “four As,” which are: availability, accessibility, environmental acceptability, and affordability.
Availability refers to the presence of domestic or foreign energy resources such as oil, gas, coal, and renewables. Accessibility is concerned with the economic, political, and technological factors shaping the ability of a country to access available energy resources at the time they are needed. Environmental acceptability is primarily a societal risk assessment encompassing public tolerance for the negative externalities of a given energy source, including issues such as pollution, emissions, biodiversity losses, etc. Lastly, affordability accounts for costs, prices, and the cost competitiveness of different energy resources from different suppliers.
The diversity and complexity of factors that can put the energy security of a country at risk have grown over recent decades. Threats to energy security emanate from, but are not limited to, climate change, competition over energy resources, conflicts, natural disasters, unreliable energy stores, overdependence on a single source, manipulation of energy supplies, and (cyber)attacks on energy infrastructure.
To address energy security risks and ensure an uninterrupted energy supply, a country can diversify its sources of energy, diversify its energy suppliers to counter dependencies on imports, implement energy efficiency measures, enhance digital resilience of energy systems, and invest in research and development for potential new technologies and uses. Ongoing energy transitions – as well as wider sustainability efforts – present both answers and further dilemmas with regard to energy security. Due to the current focus on green supply chains, the foreseeable future of energy security will largely concentrate on diversifying ownership and sourcing throughout the value chain to ensure that carbon neutral energy supplies are safe and resilient.