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The energy trilemma - the place of security of supply and affordability

YES-Europe has recently published a report, based on the views of young energy professionals and student, on the forces that are shaping the future of energy.

The result of the survey showed how the power balance in the energy trilemma will change between sustainability, security of supply and affordability.

As you can see below, the importance of both security of supply and sustainability will keep increasing and become more or less equal in 20 years. As for affordability, its importance will increase but not substantially compared to the other two.

Let's understand the factors leading to this re-balancing of the energy trilemma. The explanation for rise of the importance of sustainability can be found in any website/report/article dealing with climate change. Therefore, in the article, we mainly focus on the security of supply and affordability.

Security of supply

Despite the need to transition to cleaner energy, people do not want to compromise the comfort the current energy system have been giving them through the reliability of power. The supply of energy to end users should not be disrupted.

Since renewable energy sources (RES) are variable, they cannot be relied upon them without a backup. Therefore, to keep a secure and reliable energy supply, generation facilities running on fossil fuels must be kept connected to the grid and available. This is mostly done, thanks to capacity mechanism.

However, as we make breakthrough in storage technology and find ways to implement demand-response efficiently, RES could be sufficient to ensure the reliability of power. Moreover, the construction of a pan-European transmission grid and the coupling of electricity markets mark the transition from a national notion of security of supply, to an European one. This encourages a better collaboration between countries with different energy mix.


Affordability was a major issue in the beginning of the 21st century but in the last decade, the cost of renewables and storage have decreased considerably.

In the developed world, Feed-in tariffs, as well as other support mechanisms have been introduced to decrease the risk associated with investments in clean technology. However, as renewable technology matures and as fossil fuel based generations age, requiring the construction of new power plant, it becomes clear that investment in RES is profitable. Thus, countries are leaving those mechanisms and let the market work. Moreover, a well-defined carbon price should be able to steer the majority of investment in RES in the future.

In the developing world and for those who wants to go off-grid, the availability of a cheap, clean energy source, which simple and rapid to install has boosted energy access.

Apart from that, it is important to note that new generations are more environment conscious compared to their elders. For them, sustainability comes first.

Did you participate in the survey? Does your opinion matches the general one? Do you agree with the findings and some of the explanations provided? What are other factors leading to your opinion? Leave a comment below.

Follow this link if you want to participate in the next round of survey.

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