World Energy Trilemma

Project Partner: Oliver Wyman

The World Energy Council’s definition of energy sustainability is based on three core dimensions – energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability. These three goals constitute a ‘trilemma’, entailing complex interwoven links between public and private actors, governments and regulators, economic and social factors, national resources, environmental concerns, and individual behaviours.

Delivering policies which simultaneously address energy security, universal access to affordable energy services, and environmentally sensitive production and use of energy is one of the most formidable challenges facing government and industry. The ‘energy trilemma’ provides a clear framework to deliver the energy transformation and make sustainable energy systems a reality.

“We must accept that we have to make hard choices in this generation to bring about real changes for the future generation and the planet. Politicians and the industry must get real.”

With unclear and unstable policies being considered as one of the biggest risks to developing more sustainable energy systems, the World Energy Trilemma work programme supports an evolving dialogue to develop knowledge and understanding of effective strategies and policies, and thus to deliver the necessary transformation of the energy system.

In 2013, the WEC in its Agenda for Change identified 10 action areas as mechanisms to achieve real breakthroughs in resolving the energy trilemma. The challenge now lies in moving forward with all the necessary stakeholders, including the energy industry, consumers, citizens, the financial sector, policymakers, and regulators to put the agenda into action.  The latest report, World Energy Trilemma Time to get real – the myths and realities of financing energy systems, builds on this dialogue and highlights the perspectives of the financial community on the challenges and opportunities of scaling up investments in the energy sector.

Energy Trilemma Index

As part of the World Energy Trilemma process, the WEC has developed an Energy Trilemma Index. The Index captures and aggregates country-level data to outline the relative energy performances and contextual attributes of almost 130 countries. It provides a comparative ranking of countries’ ability to provide a stable, affordable, and environmentally sensitive energy system, while highlighting current challenges. The findings of the Index analysis are complemented with individual WEC member country profiles.

The World Energy Council conducts the overall project in partnership with the global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Joan MacNaugthon, Chair of the World Energy Trilemma Study Group

WP_JOAN_MACNAUGHTONJoan MacNaughton is the Executive Chair of the WEC’s Energy Trilemma flagship study.

From 2007 to 2012, Joan MacNaugthon was Alstom’s Global Adviser on Sustainable Policies leading Alstom’s policy department and the company’s clean power advocacy. Prior to joining Alstom, Joan held the position of Director General of Energy, overseeing the energy agenda during the UK Presidency of the EU and leading work on the energy proposals agreed at the G8 Gleneagles Summit. From 2004 to 2006, she was elected Chair of the Governing Board of the International Energy Agency, helping redefine IEA strategy and leading the response to supply disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina. An Honorary Fellow and past President of the Energy Institute and the Executive Chair of the World Energy Council Trilemma report, Joan is also Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and, among other appointments, a member of the Board of Governors, Argonne Laboratory at the University of Chicago, and of the Boards of CCSA and IETA. She is a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

“The World Energy Trilemma report looks at how efficiently member countries’ policies are managing the energy trilemma: how to deliver energy securely, to mitigate the environmental impact of energy production and use, and to ensure energy is available to all and at an affordable price.

Both the quantitative assessment of country performance in the Energy Sustainability Index and the analysis of energy and climate policies can help policymakers address the trilemma to the best effect, drawing on the opinions of both industry and government members which is a unique feature of the WEC.” 

For further information, contact Sandra Winkler, Director, Policies at WEC.

Email Sandra Winkler