International Relations Research News

A New Research Agenda on Energy Security

When asked about the main concerns of energy ministers, the then director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Maria van der Hoeven, replied, “It’s always about energy security. Always. ... For exporting countries it’s about security of demand, for importing countries about security of supply”. But scholars have struggled with energy security as a concept – how do different policy-makers understand and is this because they face different threats or because they have different values?

Dr. Brutschin from the International Relations Department and Dr. Jessica Jewell, from the Chalmers University of Technology have recently co-authored a chapter on “The Politics of Energy Security” which explores this question. In the chapter the scholars show how energy security can be shaped both by material realities, such as the level of natural gas imports and by relationships between actors, such as whether or not Russia is on good terms with the EU.

A solution to seemingly incommensurable views and methodological approaches to energy security can be found in a definition of energy security as “low vulnerability of vital energy systems” that was elaborated by Dr. Jewell and her other colleagues in their past research. Based on this definition and the state of the art in current research on energy security, the scholars recommend that future research should specifically focus on the following research questions:

  • What energy system is characterized as vital and vulnerable and why?
  • How do material factors shape what is defined as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘vital’?
  • How does power, values and trust influence how energy security is defined?
  • What explains the gap between rhetoric and action?
  • How does the energy security agenda interact with other energy policy agendas?

 The chapter is currently available online here.