Energy Security

Energy security is one of the most important considerations in national energy systems. It affects policies in international relations, conventional (military) security, trade, infrastructure investment and technology to name just a few. Energy security research at IIASA aims to understand present energy security concerns and the energy security landscapes that may emerge in the future especially in the case of strong climate policies.

oil pump jack at sunset

oil pump jack at sunset

ENE scientists developed a novel approach to assessing energy security. This approach is based on systematic analysis of energy systems and vulnerabilities to answer three fundamental questions which are on the mind of every policy-maker dealing with energy security: what to protect? from which risks and by what means

In analyzing what to protect IIASA researchers focus on vital energy systems which are not limited - as in conventional energy security analysis - to oil supplies but also include other fuels, carriers, energy infrastructure and end-uses, both current and potentially emerging in the future (e.g. biofuels, renewable energies or hydrogen infrastructure)

In analysing the key risks ENE focuses not only on geopolitical risks associated with import dependencies and market power but also vulnerability of infrastructure and exposure to yet unknown and unpredictable threats.

Finally to analyze the ways to protect vital energy systems, ENE scientists explore various options ranging from switching to more abundant and evenly distributed sources of energy to increasing the diversity of energy sources and technologies, many of which would occur under low-carbon energy transformations. IIASA also plans to develop long-term energy transformation scenarios where energy security is a key driver of change along with climate, energy access and economic development considerations.

This systematic method to assessing energy security has been used in the Global Energy Assessment for evaluating current energy security in over 130 countries as well as the global and regional energy security under different decarbonization scenarios up to the year 2100. A similar approach formed the basis of the recent IEA Model of Short-term Energy Security (MOSES).


  • Today oil is at the center of global energy security. More than 3 billion people live in countries that import over 75% of their oil supplies and an additional 1.7 billion people are likely to experience such condition in the nearest decades.
  • Natural gas dependency is at the top of the policy agenda in Eurasia where 650 million people live in countries almost entirely dependent on imported natural gas
  • Almost all low-income countries import over 80% of their oil supplies, spending a sizeable share of their foreign currency earnings on energy imports.
  • Electricity reliability is another concern: In over two-thirds of low-income countries electricity supply is interrupted for at least one hour each day. 700 million people derive most of their electricity from only one or two major dams.
  • Climate policies would lead to an increase in the share of domestic energy supply by a factor of two which would significantly decrease energy dependence in almost all regions.
  • The share of oil in globally traded oil decreases from 75% to 40% and no other fuel emerges as a similarly dominant position under most low carbon energy scenarios analyzed.
  • A low carbon energy transformation would also increase the flexibility and resilience of energy systems by increasing diversity.

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Last edited: 27 May 2014


Jessica Jewell

Research Scholar


T +43(0) 2236 807 445

Keywan Riahi

Program Director


T +43(0) 2236 807 491

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313