Policy Brief
Europe’s energy challenges : security and infrastructure in a dangerous landscape
15 February 2024
BY: BELYI Andrei, Andris Piebalgs
The safeguarding of critical offshore energy infrastructure has assumed a heightened level of urgency in the wake of the Nord Stream pipeline explosions in September 2022 and the suspected sabotage of the Baltic Connector in the summer of 2023. While the discourse on infrastructure protection has been prevalent since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the emphasis on maritime zones has only recently become pronounced. The ramifications of sabotage, as well as unintended incidents of force majeure in these zones, can profoundly impact Europe’s grid-bound energy markets, disrupting both electricity and gas sectors. This paper posits that, despite recent advancements in initiatives and the strengthening of legal frameworks, the protection of critical energy infrastructure remains fraught with significant challenges. It advocates for the integration of a strategy for measures of protective and surveillance for offshore grid-bound energy infrastructure into the European Sea Basin Strategy. This strategy represents a dynamic and innovative policy approach, designed to bolster cooperation and foster innovation across various European maritime zones. A key component of this policy framework is the emphasis on prioritizing the development of offshore wind energy and enhancing inter-state connections through maritime cables and gas pipelines. Current policy evolutions indicate a strategic shift in the role of maritime infrastructure, acknowledging the emergence of new security risks. While onshore energy infrastructure protection is undeniably crucial and demands focused efforts at the national level, the protection of maritime infrastructure necessitates a coordinated approach at the EU level. Drawing from these observations, the Policy Brief suggests relating the voluntary efforts in protection and surveillance of offshore grid-bound energies by stimulating insurance mechanisms against risks and by ensuring back-up solutions for existing infrastructure. This way, market incentives will increase effectiveness of monitoring and surveillance, while inter-state cooperation will be framed by the European Sea Basins Strategy. To address this set of issues, the Policy Brief will initially review recent developments in policy literature on this subject. It will then provide an overview of the existing and latest initiatives undertaken by the EU and NATO, aiming to conduct a comprehensive policy gap analysis. The paper will conclude by delineating the primary policy challenges associated with the protection of critical infrastructure, offering insights into potential policy responses.
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