However, the security of supply was almost a secondary goal compared to the eagerness to drive a fair, low price for supplies. “Liberalization is not driven by security of supply per se,” says Adi Imsirovic, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “Liberalization is driven by efficiency and lower prices. Normally you do get them.”
Comparing what there was in the 1990s—when each country had its own market, its own monopoly, and its own protectionist energy policy—to now, where we have an integrated market and regulators, flexible pricing, and security, we definitely succeeded, says Ganna Gladkykh, a researcher at the European Energy Research Alliance. Yet Gladkykh admits that some of the things that are earmarked as success also play a part in the energy sourcing problem that Europe currently finds itself in. “You know, there’s no perfect market.”
Bros says that the situation we face is not a market failure, but a regulatory one. Bros was involved in the liberalization of the French market and its integration into the European internal energy market. The liberalization process needs to take place, then control be given to a regulatory entity that is completely independent. At present, countries are left to their own devices, able to make a hodgepodge of different decisions about their own energy integrity, provided they roughly fall within European guidelines. “If you start messing with this concept, you end up where we are,” he says.
Some countries preferred cheap gas over diversified ones—EU energy directives state that every country should have at least three distinct sources of gas supply, with the idea that countries try to split their supply as evenly as possible, but some countries, including Germany, rely on Russia as their main supplier because of its cheap energy. Bros believes this decision was made knowing that if things went wrong, the slack would be picked up by fellow European countries. “It’s not liberalization if it’s a concept where everybody can do whatever they want,” says Bros. “If we had been following all the rules, we should have been stronger.”
There’s also the problem that what should be a unified front is often not all that harmonious. Nord Stream 2, an expansion to the original Nord Stream pipeline carrying gas from Russia to mainland Europe—landing in Germany—was supported by Germany and Austria. But it was opposed by other European countries, including Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. In the end, the plans were shelved, but only after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.