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Understanding Europe’s energy sovereignty
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has forced the European Union and its member states to reassess the importance of strengthening their energy sovereignty. However, EU member states have so far viewed this challenge mainly through the prism of access to energy resources – to maintain security of supply. But today’s deep geopolitical uncertainty and the threat of climate change mean that decision-makers should adopt a broader understanding of energy sovereignty, incorporating the role of green energy and driving the efficient use of energy.
ECFR’s Energy Sovereignty Index is a new tool that points the way towards a more innovative approach. The index breaks energy sovereignty into four crucial components: Cleanness (the share of renewables and fossil fuels in the energy mix), Independence (dependence on energy imports), Efficiency (domestic energy demand compared with actual use), and Narrative (the depth and breadth of energy sovereignty discourse within EU member states).
The index’s findings reveal member states need to make urgent improvements in this arena. While energy independence is undeniably the Achilles heel of all EU member states (the EU-wide average score languishes at a mere 3.6 out of 10), fixing the issues the index identifies will not resolve all the energy sovereignty problems faced by Europeans. Progress has undoubtedly been made in European energy cleanness (which boasts an EU-wide average score of 7.3), thanks to the growing renewable energy sector. Nevertheless, some countries are still playing catch-up. Likewise, despite a commendable overall European energy efficiency score of 7.3, some EU countries still fall short of the mark.
The individual country and category scores provide a comprehensive picture of European energy sovereignty.
Rating energy sovereignty
ECFR rated all EU member states according to the cleanness of their energy, the degree of their energy independence, how well they are doing on energy efficiency, and their national discourse on the issue.
Share of renewables and fossil fuels in the energy mix
When it comes to cleanness of energy, EU member states are on the right track and most deserve a solid thumbs-up. Why? The rising share of renewables in the EU’s energy mix. The result is a total of 17 countries scoring above 7, with 5 countries soaring above 9. Denmark and Sweden lead the pack, closely followed by Estonia and Finland. But not all are doing so well – Malta’s score is just 2.2, which is the weakest in the entire EU.
Dependence on energy imports
Many EU member states still rely heavily on energy imports, especially on fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal, along with a growing dependence on electricity imports in some cases. While many EU countries ceased buying Russian fossil fuels, new suppliers have stepped in, keeping the EU in the import loop. As many as 19 countries score below 5 in this category, with Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, and Portugal bringing up the rear.
Domestic energy demand compared with actual use
There is good news too: energy efficiency is on the rise, with most member states meeting the EU energy efficiency targets set for 2020. This success has allowed the EU to hit its own energy efficiency targets for 2020. But 2021 data show signs of a slide in several countries, raising concerns about meeting the more ambitious energy efficiency goals set for 2030. So, while 16 countries score above 7, only 3 countries make it past 9. Greece and Romania take the crown in this category. Lithuania lags far behind, on just 4.
Depth and breadth of energy sovereignty discourse within EU member states
Many countries are now setting ambitious goals to reduce their reliance on Russia and beef up national energy security. Although a clear definition of energy sovereignty is not written in stone in most countries, decision-makers are well aware of the need to act. But the index finds that, in the midst of the energy crisis, some countries still view energy sovereignty through a narrow lens, focusing mainly on the security of fossil fuel supplies. Only states such as Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Slovakia have adopted a holistic approach. Their policy takes account not only of the security of supply but also of climate goals and energy efficiency. Their approach is a game-changer in the making.
The energy sovereignty picture in the EU is a colourful mosaic, with member states falling into four distinct groups when their individual performances are gauged.
Overall score: Failing
These countries are not just hooked on imported energy, which badly affects their energy sovereignty – most of them also need a boost in other categories. While a few show glimmers of promise in specific areas (Belgium and Lithuania in cleanness, and Malta in energy efficiency), these sparks are not enough to set their overall performance on fire. Consequently, the energy sovereignty scoreboard does not paint a rosy picture for Belgium, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, and Slovakia. They have some catching up to do!
Overall score: Satisfactory
Most countries in this category are doing reasonably well but could go further to achieve greater energy sovereignty. These states balance their significant reliance on energy imports with notable achievements in at least one other key category (cleanness or energy efficiency). Greece leads this group, achieving an excellent result in the energy efficiency category (10) and a good result in the cleanness category. Meanwhile, Poland is holding its own with unspectacular but solid results in all areas. The dependent achievers are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.
Overall score: Good
In the race to shore up their energy sovereignty, a select number of countries stands tall: Estonia, Finland, Romania, and Sweden. These states have not only slashed their reliance on energy imports (Estonia, Romania, and Sweden are especially impressive here) but have also managed to put in solid performances in at least two other key categories. Leading this group is Estonia, which sets the standard with an outstanding score of 9.5 in independence. It is followed by Finland, which has impressive results in cleanness (9.6) and energy efficiency (8.8).
Overall Score: Very good
The real energy sovereignty front-runner is Denmark. This country has not only thrown off the shackles of energy imports but has also spearheaded green energy initiatives, all while racking up commendable results in energy efficiency. Denmark is actively reshaping the energy sovereignty landscape.
Energy sovereignty mapped☝ Hover over the country to reveal the details.
Summary Table and Methodology
The Energy Sovereignty Index assesses each EU member state’s performance in four areas: energy cleanness, energy independence, energy efficiency, and narrative about energy sovereignty.
This involves the following steps:
In each area, the index identifies indicators used for the evaluation. To create these indicators, the index uses both primary sources (input from ECFR’s 27 associate researchers) and secondary sources (official statistics). The full list of 15 indicators used in this study is provided in Table 1 below, alongside their sources.
The index normalises scores for most indicators on a linear scale from 0 to 10, usually by using the world average as a benchmark. Three indicators are not normalised towards a 0-10 scale; they serve instead as bonus or penalty points for the results in each area.
For each area, the index then applies the author’s formula to produce a score for a country’s performance. Formulas for each area are provided further down in Table 2.
A weighted average of scores in four areas provides a country’s overall energy sovereignty index; on this, energy cleanness, energy independence, and energy efficiency each account for 30 per cent of the overall index, while the narrative about energy sovereignty contributes 10 per cent to the final score.
The final results are presented in the following way: anything up to 5.4 is “failing”; from 5.5 to 7.0 is “satisfactory”; from 7.1 to 8.4 is “good”; from 8.5 to 9.4 is “very good”; and 9.5 or above is “excellent”.
Based on the countries’ overall scores, the index identifies four groups of countries – Laggards (Failing), Dependent achievers (Satisfactory), Emerging sovereigntists (Good), and Independent decarbonisers (Very good) – with regard to their overall energy sovereignty.