The concept of energy security has been at the front and centre of many important changes in international relations and international law since the 1970s. However, in the recent past, the speed of its evolution and the fleshing out of its scope and content has been quite dramatic. During this period, there has been remarkable flux in the patterns of global trading in energy products. In 2008–09, several key trends started to develop in the energy sector, triggered by the influence of two new, very strong factors: the global financial and economic crisis and the shale revolution in gas and oil production. The Energy Policy of the Trump Administration stands in contrast with that of the Obama Administration. The America First Energy Plan stated, inter alia, that “The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.” The Plan called for removing the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule, embracing the shale oil and gas revolution, commitment to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, boosting domestic energy production, achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to US interests, and responsible stewardship of the environment. Two years later, a White House Fact sheet stated that under President Trump, the US had been establishing energy dominance, abolishing the war on energy and advancing American energy. Specifically, it was pointed out that United States had become, amongst others, (a) the largest crude oil producer in the world, (b) a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957 including exports of LNG to the EU at an all-time high in March 2019 , (c) crude oil exports nearly doubled in 2018, reaching a record average of 2 million barrels a day, (d) coal exports reached their highest level in five years in 2018 and (e) withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and got “rid of costly Obama-era regulations like the Stream Protection Rule and the Clean Power Plan.” The George W Bush legacy was closer to the Obama approach. According to a Fact sheet on the same, President Bush had taken a reasoned, balanced approach to the serious challenges of energy security and climate change.
According to its White Paper of 2012 titled, “China’s Energy Policy” in 2011, the output of primary energy equaled 3.18 billion tons of standard coal, ranking first in the world. At present, nearly 50 percent of China’s total energy imports is from the Middle East. For the foreseeable future security of energy supplies will continue to remain a policy priority for Beijing. Under Xi Jinping, China has turned more ambitious in respect of its energy mix with considerable emphasis on new energy including through the Made in China 2025 policy and the Belt and Road connectivity initiative. It may be recalled that the ten year Made in China 2025 plan on promoting manufacturing was announced in May 2015 and specifically included energy saving cars and new energy cars among the ten key sectors. According to a MERICS Database made public in July 2019, two thirds of Chinese spending on completed BRI projects went into the energy sector, and already amounted to more than USD 50 billion. Renewable energy power-plants led the pack of completed, Chinese-funded energy projects with a total investment volume in excess of USD 20 billion. According to the 2019 Annual Report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China has quickly built up advanced production capacity in lithium-ion batteries and established control over a substantial portion of the global supply chain, exposing the United States to potential shortages in critical materials, battery components, and batteries. Further, China is positioning itself to become a leader in nuclear power through cultivating future nuclear export markets along the Belt and Road, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and attracting advanced nuclear reactor designers to build prototypes in China. Finally, reference may also be made to China’s efforts at the Arctic region. Since 1999, China has organized a number of scientific expeditions in the Arctic, with its research vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) as the platform. In 2004, it built the Arctic Yellow River Station in Ny Alesund in the Spitsbergen Archipelago and by the end of 2017, China had carried out eight scientific expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, and conducted research for 14 years with the Yellow River Station as the base.
The position of the OPEC has also evolved. In a keynote address delivered by HE Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC Secretary General, at the Chatham House Conference entitled “Middle East Energy 2008″ – Risk and Responsibility: The New Realities of Energy Supply – London, UK, 4 February 2008, he focused on the following characteristics: Energy security should be reciprocal; universal, applying to rich and poor nations alike; focus on providing all consumers with modern energy services; apply to the entire supply chain; cover all foreseeable time-horizons; allow for the development and deployment of new technologies in a sustainable, economic and environmentally-sound manner; and benefit from enhanced dialogue and cooperation among stakeholders. A decade later, it is instructive to glance through the World Oil Outlook report 2019 launched on 5 November 2019 at Vienna, Austria. It states, inter alia, that demand for OPEC liquids is projected to increase to around 44.4 mb/d in 2040, up from 36.6 mb/d in 2018; global crude oil and condensate trade is estimated to remain relatively static at around 38 mb/d between 2018 and 2025, before increasing to around 42 mb/d by 2040; in the period to 2040, the required global oil sector investment is estimated at $10.6 trillion; and energy poverty remains a major global challenge, with almost one billion people still without access to electricity and three billion lacking access to clean fuels for cooking. The Aramco’s IPO is being watched with interest including for what it meant for energy security calculations especially of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The testy relationship between the US analysts and the OPEC markets remains even as the promise of shale gas fades away.
The Indian understanding of energy security encompasses four aspects, namely (i) availability of energy for all citizens, (ii) lifeline energy, (iii) supply that meets effective demand, and (iv) ability to withstand shocks and disruptions. The landmark India-US nuclear deal was intended to address the problem of energy deficit that had emerged as one of the primary constraints on accelerating India’s growth rate. According to a fact sheet of the Ministry of External Affairs of India of 27 June 2007, “Presently, only 3% of India’s energy needs are met from the nuclear sources. India plans to produce 20,000 MWe from the nuclear sector by 2020, an increase from the current 3,700 Mwe.” Full civil nuclear energy cooperation with the US was also expected to help India achieve energy security. Most recently, in his speech at 16th International Energy Forum Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi in early 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Given global uncertainties, India also needs energy security. My vision for India’s energy future has 4 pillars– energy access, energy efficiency, energy sustainability and energy security….the launch of the International Solar Alliance is a step towards fulfilling this commitment.” India had reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement and achieved some successes through its citizen participation on certain aspects of the fight against pollution. Recent news reports indicate that the Government of India is in the process of formulating a new energy policy. The highly reputed National Geographic assessed in September 2019 that “India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, and in fact it is investing more in them than it is in fossil fuels”
The IEA defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. At the mid 2019 G20 Osaka Summit, the leaders acknowledged “…the importance of global energy security as one of the guiding principles for the transformation of energy systems, including resilience, safety and development of infrastructure and undisrupted flow of energy from various sources, suppliers, and routes.” They also recognized the value of international cooperation on a wide range of energy-related issues including energy access, affordability and energy efficiency, and energy storage. The WTO has in a limited way addressed some aspects of energy security. In the WTO Panel report of September 2018 on European Union and its Member States — Certain Measures Relating to the Energy Sector, where the complainant was the Russian Federation, one of the points of contention was regarding the third-country certification measure in the national implementing laws of Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania. Both parties agreed that the measure, de jure, violates the national treatment obligation in Article XVII of the GATS by requiring a security of energy supply assessment prior to the certification of third-country transmission system operators, but not domestic ones. Controlling the South China Sea has major implications for energy security in that region. The strategic context affecting upstream development in the South China Sea is a rising China that is increasingly able and willing to assertively pursue its perceived sovereign rights to oil and gas resources. The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case brought by The Philippines has relevance in this regard. The centrality of ASEAN countries in the 21st century Maritime Silk Road initiative of China is testimony to this. How the regional grouping handles the on-going negotiations on the Code of Conduct for the SCS is going to determine the safety of sea lanes in this busy and sensitive area. The imperative for energy security in such a vulnerable strategic region as the Asia-Pacific is paramount for global stability and development. In this regard, the 2007 non-binding Declaration on East Asian energy security signed by the leaders of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, on the occasion of the Second East Asia Summit on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines called for: cleaner and lower emissions technologies, use of biofuels, improving efficiency and conservation, reducing the costs of renewable and alternate energy sources through innovative financing schemes, intensifying the search for new and renewable energy resources and technologies, stable energy supply through investments in regional energy infrastructure, recycling of oil revenues and profits for equity investments, strategic fuel stockpiling, clean use of coal and development of clean coal technologies and international environmental cooperation, regional or bilateral cooperation & assisting less developed countries in enhancing national capacity building.
In 2017, the EU produced around 45 % of its own energy, while 55 % was imported; the energy mix in the EU, was mainly made up by five different sources: petroleum products (including crude oil) (36%), natural gas (23%), solid fossil fuels (15%), renewable energy (14%) and nuclear energy (12%). The main imported energy product was petroleum products (including crude oil, which is the main component), accounting for almost two thirds of energy imports into the EU, followed by gas (26 %) and solid fossil fuels (8 %); almost two thirds of the extra-EU’s crude oil imports came from Russia (30 %), Norway (11 %), Iraq (8 %), Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia (both 7 %) & more than three quarters of the EU’s imports of natural gas came from Russia (40 %), Norway (26 %) and Algeria (11 %), while almost three quarters of solid fuel (mostly coal) imports originated from Russia (39 %), Colombia and United States (17 % each). Of all the international players, the EU has been the most progressive on climate change issues. Recently, the European Investment Bank announced that it would stop funding fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021. On its part, the European Parliament has urged all EU countries to commit to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. The Commission is expected to present in 2020 a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions towards 55% in a reasonable way by 2030.
In conclusion, it is observed that the period from 2000 to 2019 has been transformational in multiple ways in respect of the evolution of the emphasis between renewables and non-renewables in the energy mix reflective of domestic green politics the world over, especially in Asia. The dissonance amidst the principal actors of the energy architecture can be inferred from transition from Balance to Dominance in the case of US; Emphasis on Environment in the case of EU; taking the lead in global Supply of Lithium and Nuclear in the case of PRC, Four Pillars of Energy Future in the case of India, Reciprocal Dimension of Energy Security in the case of OPEC and the myriad of perspectives from Plurilateral and Multilateral Institutions. With the passage of time, since the energy crisis of 1970s, reconciliation of how major players view energy security warrants greater attention as we move ahead.