Net energy trade, 2011


Observations for policy

The observed interdependencies in energy supply and demand between Europe and its neighbours imply close bilateral cooperation in order to streamline energy distribution. At the same time, given that many European countries depend, to a large extent on energy imports (notably Germany, Italy and Spain), efforts are needed for reducing Europe’s reliance on external resources and make best use of our own supplies through more efficient energy consumption techniques. Both issues are addressed in the 2011 – 2020 Energy Strategy for Europe, which highlights the need for energy innovation through the Strategic Energy Technology Plan. Such strategies ensure the long-term energy independence of Europe based on energy efficiency and renewable energy techniques, as well as closer cooperation with partners in fighting greenhouse gas emissions.

Policy context

The complementarity in energy demand and supply between Europe and its neighbours tied the two parties together through both region-wide and bilateral arrangements. An important energy framework, especially for the Europe-Russia relations is the legally-binding Energy Charter Treaty which regulates energy trade. Other cooperation frameworks are the two EU neighbourhood policies, one for Eastern neighbours and another for Mediterranean countries. The 6th Cohesion Report mentions that Europe should use these frameworks to cooperate with neighbours for securing energy supplies as well as for fighting together against greenhouse gases.

An important reference point for regional energy policy is the Energy Strategy for Europe 2011 – 2020, set on limiting the EU’s dependence on Russia by promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency and by supporting pipeline projects by-passing Russia and targeting the Caucasus region. The strategy’s five pillars are in line with Europe 2020 priorities such as the 20/20/20 goals which the document envisages to accomplish through improving energy efficiency in buildings and transport, as well as in industry. Among other objectives is the free movement of energy by investing in EU energy infrastructure through the Connecting Europe Facility, which allocated €5.1b for energy projects in 2014 – 2020. Finally, an important priority in line with Europe 2020 flagship initiatives such as the “Innovation Union“ is the “Strategic Energy Technology“ (SET) Plan, which includes initiatives for sustainable nuclear and solar energy as well as networking initiatives such as Smart Cities. Such strategies work on the one hand to improve cooperation with our neighbours and on the other hand to reduce Europe’s dependency on energy imports.

Map interpretation

The map displays a complementary pattern between Europe’s energy deficits and its neighbours’ energy surpluses. This includes fossil fuel raw materials such as oil and gas, but also electricity from nuclear power plants or solar plants. Except for Norway, the entire European continent up to Russia is an energy importer, but the dependency rate differs per country. A higher dependency on imports is found in Southern Europe, notably Italy and Spain. Germany and Belgium are also importing considerable amounts of energy and are highly dependent on imports, whereas many of the remaining European countries have low dependency ratios and (except for France) relatively low net trade volumes.

European neighbourhoods consist largely of energy exporters with Russia and Saudi Arabia having the largest export volumes due to their massive oil and gas resources. Russia and Norway are the EU’s largest energy trade partners followed by the Maghreb countries which diversify their offer to include more gas in liquefied form in the future. Given these complementarities and the mutual dependence between Europe and its neighbours strong partnerships around specific long-term strategies need to be observed by both parties. The diversity of Europe’s energy partners (cultural, religious, linguistic) implies diversified approaches which caused the EU to make a distinction between “Mediterranean“ and “Eastern“ partners in its neighbourhood policy.

Concepts and methods

The map displays net energy trade (energy exports minus imports) in European and neighbouring countries. Red, orange and yellow nuances indicate energy-importing countries, while blue nuances refer to energy-exporting countries. The darker the colour, the higher the percentage of imports/exports of the energy used. Saudi Arabia, for instance, exports up to 594% of the energy it uses, while Italy imports 80 to 100% of the energy it uses.

The size of the circles represents a country’s net energy trade, given by the difference between its exports and its imports. It measures the surplus of deficit of energy in each country, in kt of oil equivalent. The smaller the circle, the less the country trades in energy.