The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (GCMC) in cooperation with the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies (CAISS) held a conference for Subject Matter Experts from Central Asian states on Regional Energy Security on April 4-6, 2018 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This conference aims at addressing the new energy security dynamics in the world with a focus on Central Asia.
Energy issues have been lastingly on the security agenda at a cross-section of state and societal security. The EXPO 2017 in Astana was held under title ‘The Future of Energy’ directing the view onto the future, and water security together with related environmental challenges and climate change has been identified as one of the TOP-10 security concerns in Central Asia. The times when energy, particularly hydrocarbons were regarded as some kind of a “weapon” seems to recede in a distance. The energy markets of the world change at rapid pace and no country is left immune from them. The Central Asian region is also directly affected. Hydrocarbon exporting countries generate less revenue than before that requires the adaptation of their energy strategies and their grand strategy, including socio-economic development. Importers may notice this with some relief as they have to spend less to subsidizing energy consumption. However, low hydrocarbon prices result in reduced investment in the sector and thus in due course to some extent prices will rise. States that could benefit from renewable energy resources, in Central Asia first and foremost of energy generation by hydro-electric power plants, will not find low energy prices advantageous. Access to energy resources is also conditioned by their transportation. Some links have opened connecting producing countries with the broader region whereas others seem more at a stalemate. This applies both to oil and gas pipelines and the electricity grid.
However, it is not only those general tendencies that will impact upon Central Asia but also the changing intra-regional political dynamics. Matters that were assessed often mono-dimensionally in the past have been subject to reassessment that carry the promise of more than ever cooperative approaches if not a breakthrough. Taking stock and looking forward may indicate new dynamics. If it is sustained, the region can only benefit from it.
As energy security issues are so essential for the security of both the states, the society, and the individual it is essential to reconnect the exchanges on them with the broader security framework of Central Asia.
The conference aims to bring together up to seven government officials, representatives of the corporate sector, and analysts of the five states in Central Asia to draw realistic conclusions for the foreseeable future.