by RAY FLEMING
ENERGY security has become just as important an issue as energy resources.
There may be ample supplies of gas or oil but if the number of providers is shrinking and if some are in countries inclined to use their energy riches as a political weapon then consuming countries must consider how best to safeguard their access to essential energy at all times. These are the issues driving the pressure in the United States for more intensive exploitation of its own oil and gas reserves, regardless of whether they are to be found in hitherto protected areas of great natural beauty. In Europe there is an increasing awareness that its natural gas supplies, in particular, are too dependent on Russia which in the past has not hesitated to turn off the tap to nearby countries showing too great a degree of independence. At the moment Europe imports 61 per cent of its gas supplies, with two-thirds of this coming from Russia. The problems that withdrawal or limitation of these supplies would pose has been the stimulus for an ambitious European Union plan to create a power supergrid that would ensure the widespread availability of energy in all circumstances.

Energy sharing would be achieved by such measures as the integration of North Sea wind farms and the linking of electricity grids in the Balkans and the Mediterranean areas, and also by establishing gas pipelines bringing in supplies from Africa and Central Asia.

These are obviously costly major projects but without a supergrid of this kind Europe will become increasingly vulnerable to energy insecurity.

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