In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Energy Security

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Periodicals
  • Historic Energy Security Challenges
  • Contemporary Conceptualizations of Energy Security
  • Measuring Energy Security
  • Energy Security as a Political Concept
  • Energy Security and International Relations
  • Security of Oil Supplies
  • Security and Geopolitics of Natural Gas
  • Security of other Energy Sources
  • Security of Electricity
  • Energy Security and Climate Change Mitigation
  • Data Sources

Environmental Science Energy Security
Aleh Cherp, Farhad Mukhtarov
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 March 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199363445-0021


Energy security is a multidisciplinary field which overlaps with engineering and energy systems analysis, earth sciences, economics, technology studies, political science, international relations, and security and military studies. Though discussions of energy security have been around for most of the 20th century, a systematic “energy security science” has emerged only recently and is still a young and dynamic field. The structure and the borders of the area are widely debated and contested. Contemporary debates on energy security include dilemmas such as whether energy security is a “socially constructed concept” or an objective property of energy systems, whether it is primarily a national-level issue or whether it also exists at different scales (household, local, regional, and global), whether it relates only to conventional or also to “human security,” whether it is a generic or context-dependent idea, and how it relates to other energy policy issues (e.g., environmental and social impacts). The key outcomes of this debate include the idea that energy security relates to both shocks and stresses, includes both physical and economic aspects, and relates to the “vital energy systems” which underpin the stability and functioning of societies.

General Overviews

There are no textbooks which provide a systematic and comprehensive overview of the field of energy security. Bohi and Toman 2011 provides a good early introduction to the topic from the economics perspective. Two handbooks, Sovacool 2011 and Dyer and Trombetta 2013, contain collections of valuable contributions but do not amount to a coherent overview of the field. The Global Energy Assessment’s chapter on Energy and Security (Cherp, et al. 2012) introduces and applies a single framework for both delineating and structuring the field of energy security which builds on the idea of vital energy systems and the three perspectives of energy security discussed in the Contemporary Conceptualizations of Energy Security section. Three comprehensive literature reviews on energy security are Sovacool and Brown 2010, Cherp and Jewell 2011, and Jewell 2013. The World Energy Outlook published yearly by the International Energy Agency (IEA) is an excellent source of analysis and information on global energy, including energy security, issues.

  • Bohi, Douglas R., and Michael A. Toman. 2011. The economics of energy security. London: Springer.

    The book, originally published in 1996, examines the assessment of energy security externalities for policy purposes and the case for using energy security as an argument for government intervention in energy markets. It views energy security from the economics perspective and does not analyze more recent international developments affecting the contemporary interpretation of energy security.

  • Cherp, A., A. Adenikinju, A. Goldthau, et al. 2012. Energy and security. In Global Energy Assessment: Toward a sustainable future. Edited by Thomas B. Johansson, N. Nakicenovic, and A. Patwardan, 325–384. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511793677

    The Global Energy Assessment was a major effort to analyze contemporary energy challenges as well as feasible pathways to solve these challenges with available technologies and resources. The energy and security chapter contains an assessment of energy security challenges in over 130 countries using over thirty indicators based on the framework proposed by Cherp and Jewell 2011 and Cherp and Jewell 2013 (cited under Measuring Energy Security).

  • Cherp, A., and J. Jewell. 2011. The three perspectives on energy security: Intellectual history, disciplinary roots and the potential for integration. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 3.4: 202–212.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2011.07.001

    This review traces the historic development of the energy security debate over the 20th and the early 21st century. It introduces the notion of vital energy systems and three epistemologically different perspectives on energy security, each with its roots in specific historic periods, policy problems, and disciplinary insights. The review also contains an annotated bibliography on energy security.

  • Dyer, H., and M. J. Trombetta, eds. 2013. International handbook of energy security. Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

    DOI: 10.4337/9781781007907

    This edited volume includes twenty-four contributions, many drawn from the fields of international relations and political sciences. In the introduction, the editors summarize contemporary debates on energy security. The chapters are divided into several sections: security of supply, security of demand, energy, environment and security, and energy and human security.

  • IEA, International Energy Agency. 1994–. World Energy Outlook. Paris: International Energy Agency.

    World Energy Outlook is a comprehensive overview of the most recent energy trends, projections, and issues around the world. Energy issues associated with energy security, such as trade and import dependence, traditionally take a prominent part in the Outlook. The most recent issues of the Outlook were focused on Brazil’s Energy Outlook and Outlook for Oil Markets 2013, Energy Efficiency and Iraq Energy Outlook 2012, Outlook for Russian Energy and Outlook for Coal Markets 2011, and Outlook for Natural Gas 2009.

  • Jewell, J. 2013. Energy security and climate change mitigation: Interaction in long-term global scenarios. PhD diss., Central European Univ., Budapest.

    This PhD dissertation contains the most comprehensive historic overview of energy security literature.

  • Sovacool, B. K., ed. 2011. The Routledge handbook of energy security. Oxford and New York: Routledge.

    This edited volume includes twenty contributions representing a range of disciplines dominated by social scientists. Over half of the chapters explore various dimensions of energy security, including “energy poverty,” “efficiency,” and “social and sustainable development.” Such broad delineation of energy security is often contested. Other chapters cover indicators and assessment methods for energy security, mostly interpreting it more narrowly.

  • Sovacool, B. K., and M. A. Brown. 2010. Competing dimensions of energy security: An international perspective. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 35.1: 77–108.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-042509-143035

    This review proposes four dimensions of energy security (availability, accessibility, efficiency, and environmental sustainability). It assigns each of ninety-one pieces of scholarship from 2003–2008 to one of these dimensions. It also contains a calculation of a compound energy security index of twenty-one OECD countries.

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