NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

NATO’s role in energy security

NATO leaders recognize that the disruption of the flow of vital resources could affect Alliance security interests. At the Bucharest Summit in April 2008, the Allies noted a report on “NATO’s Role in Energy Security,” which identifies guiding principles and outlines options and recommendations for further activities. These were reiterated at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009 and the Lisbon Summit in November 2010.

The report identified the five following key areas where NATO can provide added value:

  • information and intelligence fusion and sharing; 
  • projecting stability;
  • advancing international and regional cooperation;
  • supporting consequence management; and
  • supporting the protection of critical infrastructure.

Consultations started after the Bucharest Summit regarding the depth and range of NATO’s involvement in this issue. Both within the Alliance and with NATO’s partner countries, a number of practical programmes, such as workshops and research projects, are ongoing.

  • Work in practice

    Consultations on energy security take place in several bodies within NATO. In addition, NATO members have supported a number of scenario-based workshops, exhibitions and forums at NATO headquarters, as well as in Georgia and Lithuania, addressing this topic.

    Through Operation Active Endeavour, NATO maritime forces have been maintaining security for key resource routes in the Mediterranean. Allies also cooperate with partner countries and relevant experts through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme and other frameworks.

    Maritime operations support

    Some 65 per cent of the oil and natural gas consumed in Western Europe passes through the Mediterranean each year, with major pipelines connecting Libya to Italy and Morocco to Spain.

    Since October 2001 NATO ships have been patrolling in the Eastern Mediterranean to detect and deter terrorist activity as part of Operation Active Endeavour . The operation has since been expanded to cover the Straits of Gibraltar and the entire Mediterranean, providing escorts to non-military shipping and conducting compliant boarding of suspicious vessels.

    NATO ships also systematically carry out preparatory route surveys in “choke” points (formed by narrow waterways and straits) as well as important passages and harbours throughout the Mediterranean.

    Research projects and workshops

    An October 2009 Advanced Research Workshop on energy security issues, supported by the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) programme, brought numerous policy makers and advisors to Vilnius to discuss European energy security and supply, in addition to addressing Lithuanian energy security following the closure of the Ignalina nuclear plant.

    Under the multi-year SPS project “Sahara Trade Winds to Hydrogen”, NATO supports cooperation between NATO and Mediterranean Dialogue countries, including Morocco and Mauritania. The aim is to develop cutting-edge hydrogen technology to store and transport renewable energy from wind turbines, in this way improving the capabilities of the energy expert community in these countries.

    Another multi-year SPS project, “Seismic Hazard and Risk Assessment for Southern Caucasus-Eastern Turkey Energy Corridors”, involves scientists from Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan monitoring and assessing seismic risks along two vital energy supply lines, the Baku-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum natural gas pipeline.

    Cooperation with Partner Countries

    Due to shared security concerns, cooperative activities with partner countries often have an impact on energy security issues. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) are the main cooperative frameworks, although bilateral arrangements also exist. Areas such as defence reform, critical infrastructure protection, counter-terrorism cooperation, scientific developments and environmental protection may all have an impact on resource security.

    Cooperation with main actors in energy security

    NATO’s role is to raise awareness among NATO Allies and partners of energy security issues and to exchange expertise and experience.

    NATO monitors issues connected to energy security and brings together experts to share best practices on the protection of critical energy infrastructure and provides analysis to the Nations on energy-related issues. In addition, it produces assessments of risks and threats to energy security and infrastructure, examines the economic consequences of energy security issues and tracks relevant technology and environmental developments that affect energy security.

    NATO looks to protect critical energy infrastructures, transit areas and lines, while cooperating with partners and other organisations involved with energy security. To this end, NATO seeks to expand the dialogue with other actors involved in energy security, such as the European Union and the International Energy Agency, as well as to deepen partnerships with the academic community and the private sector.

  • History

    During the Cold War, energy security for NATO meant ensuring the supply of fuel to Alliance forces. To this end, the Allies set up the NATO Pipeline System, which consists of ten separate and distinct military storage and distribution systems across Europe. However, in light of shifting global political and strategic realities the concept of energy security is changing.

    In the last few years, international trends and a number of international disputes have further contributed to Alliance concerns over resource security.

    The 1999 Strategic Concept stated that the disruption of vital resources could affect the Alliance’s security interests. The 2010 Strategic Concept gave far more prominence to the importance of communication, transport and transit routes that are vital to energy security and the need to ensure resilience against attacks or disruption.

    NATO seeks to address this issue by broadening the debate on energy security and linking it more systematically to operational and environmental concerns.

Last updated: 17-Nov-2011 15:58

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