Energy security is best achieved through efficiency, diversity and co-operation

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In times of economic uncertainty and geopolitical unrest, energy security is even more important that usual, says IEA executive director

29 June 2012

The best way to ensure energy security – the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price – is to use less energy, the IEA’s executive director said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Energy Ministerial.

Maria van der Hoeven was speaking on the final day of the meeting, which focused on the challenges and strategic choices for energy security in the Asia-Pacific region.

The IEA’s executive director stressed that improving energy efficiency – a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption – is a powerful tool for combating the threat of energy security, adding that efforts should be made to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.

Acknowledging that this is politically challenging, Ms. Van der Hoeven stressed that high oil prices are a major burden for government budgets subsidising oil, and that subsidies can crowd out spending on services such as education and healthcare.

Not only about oil

While oil supply security remains a key focus, the IEA’s executive director also noted at the 24-25 June St Petersburg meeting that energy security has evolved to other fuels as well, notably gas.

She explained that in recent years, gas security has been helped by increases in conventional gas reserve estimates and also the unconventional gas boom.

“In May the IEA released a set of ‘golden rules’ for regulation and oversight which will be essential to ushering in a ‘golden age’ of gas,” she said. “If there is a lack of a transparent and predictable investment and regulatory framework, development of such resources will be delayed and limited.”

Gas, Ms. Van der Hoeven added, can serve as a vital bridge to a lower carbon future, and help to diversify the fuel mix for power generation.

International co-operation

A further key element of ensuring energy security is through enhanced co-operation with partners, according to Ms. Van der Hoeven, who noted the partnership between the IEA and APEC member countries.

“In 2010, six of the top 10 oil consumers belonged to APEC,” she said. “Energy security is therefore a shared concern – especially during these stormy economic times.”

Ms. Van der Hoeven noted the IEA-APEC work in the area of responding to emergencies caused by a shortage of oil supply. She cited emergency response training exercises that have been organised over the past few years.

“International co-operation, such as that between the IEA and APEC, will be essential to achieving our convergent energy security interests,” she concluded.

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