A stable energy supply is vital to our economy and our well-being.
The energy supply security challenges our country faces are, however, of such magnitude that cooperation in a European context and even beyond is necessary. These challenges include:
- how to respond to the current and continuing domination of fossil fuels and the decrease in clean energy sources, which make the EU more dependent on imported oil and gas. For oil, dependence on petroleum imports is set to increase from 76% in 2002 to 94% in 2030. For gas, dependence on imports is set to increase from 49% in 2002 to 81% in 2030. In the short term there are no economically viable large-scale alternatives to these fuels;
- stemming the trend of growing state interference in the energy sector, particularly regarding the exploration and mining of gas and oil. Access to foreign investment remains limited and much less is usually invested in the exploration and mining of oil and gas, which means that supply can barely keep pace with the ever-growing energy demand
- insufficient investment in replacing and expanding generation and refining capacity, which results in a continuing shortage on world markets. International analyses show that to meet future demand, major investment will be needed over a longer period.
- the search for a solution to the increased concentration of energy reserves in a limited number of countries (the Middle East, Russia and the countries around the Caspian Sea and in North Africa and West Africa), which are often located in politically unstable regions. This is also the case for energy transit. These developments increase consumer vulnerability as well as the risk that the transit or producing countries might use energy transit as a political weapon
These aspects clearly show that the western world has a loose grip on the demand and supply of fossil fuels which form the foundation of our economic activity.
Over the past two years, the security of the energy supply has become a central issue on the international political agenda. It is one of the three main objectives of the new ‘Energy Policy for Europe’ developed by heads of State and government of the EU. It will be presented on the agenda as a ‘Strategic Energy Review’.
Due to its lack of national energy sources, Belgium is heavily dependent on external supplies. According to European Commission figures, dependence on imported energy is around 78.9%, above the European average. Thanks to a policy of diversification of energy sources, geographical origin, delivery routes etc., disruptions in supply have exerted little influence on energy supply in Belgium.
This somewhat favourable situation cannot, however, last forever. In future, Belgium will become more dependent on gas supplies from countries outside the EU, particularly from Russia, while the global mining of oil will continue to be limited to an ever smaller number of countries.
This fact is an incentive to closer collaboration in a European and international context.