Energy has played an important role in the economy of every country across the globe. Nowadays, there is an incredible pressure on the countries to join the transition to clean energy, abandoning the use of fossil fuels, and at the same time to provide secure energy supply and to enable access to affordable energy for both domestic and commercial use. The effective and successful execution of these demanding tasks depend on a country’s indigenous energy sources as well as on its energy policies.

The three dimensions of energy system

According to the 2019 World Energy Council report “World Energy Trilemma Index”, countries need to (re)design energy policies in order to manage and balance three core dimensions: Energy Security, Energy Equity and the Environmental Sustainability of Energy Systems.

Energy security reflects a nation’s capacity to meet current and future energy demand reliably, withstand and bounce back swiftly from system shocks with minimal disruption to supplies.

Energy equity assesses a country’s ability to provide universal access to affordable, fairly priced and abundant energy for domestic and commercial use.

Environmental Sustainability of energy systems represents the transition of a country’s energy system towards mitigating and avoiding potential environmental harm and climate change impacts.

This Trilemma framework serves as a good base for an analysis of the three dimensions and it ‘’promotes policy coherence and integration to enable better calibrated energy systems in the context of the global energy transition challenge’’. Only the balanced and consistent performance across all three dimensions can secure the smooth transition of energy systems.

How do countries perform within the Trilemma prism?

The World Energy Council report provides a performance index that represents invaluable insights for countries’ policy makers to consider how they can navigate the energy transition using their Energy Trilemma as a compass. Even though there are many discrepancies in countries’ political and societal contexts and all of them are faced with unique resources, policy goals and challenges, and the country’s relative individual dimension score and historical trends that reflect the impacts of longer-term policy choices can serve as a solid base for the creation of more robust and sustainable energy policies.

The countries that are the leaders in the three dimensions are Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark. Sweden, Denmark, and Finland score the highest on the Energy Security dimension due to their robust and secure systems, that are able to manage supply and demand effectively. When it comes to Equity dimension, Luxembourg, Bahrain and Qatar are the leaders given these countries’ ability to provide access to abundant energy while maintain affordable energy prices. Also, these countries are well-endowed or well-connected countries with concentrated populations that provide a good start for achieving equity. Yet, the countries that assume the top of the 2019 ranking for the Environmental Sustainability of Energy Systems are the ones that are making ‘‘steady gains on the pathway to decarbonisation and pollution control, in the context of sustainable economic growth’’. And these are Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden.

Also, many countries have recorded improvements since 2000 and there are many of them doing well in the overall Trilemma balance: 50% of Trilemma countries shown consistent upward trends in their overall Trilemma score since 2015, compared to 15% consistently improving since 2000. For instance, Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Dominican Republic have demonstrated the greatest overall improvement across the three dimensions, with 30%-40% improvement in the overall Index from the 2000 baseline. When it comes to energy security, Malta, Jordan and the Dominican Republic have made tremendous improvements since 2000. Yet, the equity dimension improvements have been recorded in the countries that have placed significant focus on advancing UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 like Cambodia, Nepal, and Myanmar. Yet, the top improvers in the sustainability dimension over time are very different to the sustainability top 10 and represent countries that are rapidly and tangibly decarbonising their energy systems, including China and Poland.

What is the recipe for a successful transition?

How can we “navigate the energy transition effectively and build prosperity for a nation’s citizens’? Despite the fact that every country has its own political, economic and social context and encounters specific challenges, there are certain steps that each country can make in order to have a smooth and successful energy transition. Therefore, (1) adopting and implementing robust energy policies that will focus on the diversification of energy sources with the accent on renewables, (2) reduction of imports of dirty energy sources, and (3) significant investments in infrastructure and in grid security that will be accompanied by stable regulatory and market frameworks, can certainly improve all three dimensions of a country’s energy system.

Photo by Fré Sonneveld on Unsplash

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