Shell USA President Gretchen Watkins (Sam Barnes)

Healthy energy systems should be secure, equitable and environmentally sustainable, but maintaining a proper balance between the three is a challenging proposition for most countries.

That’s particularly true as the market transitions, with increasing speed, to decentralized, decarbonized and digital systems.

Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell USA in Houston, says it’s one of the biggest dilemmas countries faces in combating climate change: how to transition to cleaner forms of energy while also making them affordable and reliable.

Watkins spoke recently at the Energy Transition North America Conference in Houston. “Those (security, equity and environmental sustainability) don’t always go together in harmony,” she says. “In fact, at times they’re very much in tension. As we think about the energy transition, we should recognize that there are a lot of forces impacting the world’s ability to transition from traditional hydrocarbon fuels to cleaner energy, whether that be biofuels, wind, solar, hydrogen, carbon capture etc.

“There is an incredible need for collaboration in the energy transition space … collaboration between companies, governments, societies, academic partners etc. There’s also the need for good policy.”

Renewable forms of energy remain unaffordable for much of the world, while, conversely, traditional forms of energy are abundant and less costly.

And while the needle has been moved somewhat in the U.S. by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act–both of which introducing incentives and funding for investments in clean energy–Watkins says the transition needs to be equitable across the globe.

“We will have failed if only part of the world’s population transitions, and the rest don’t,” she adds.

Since 2010, the World Energy Council has ranked the energy performance of 127 countries based upon energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability.

Dubbed the “Energy Trilemma Index,” the ranking uses global and national data to recommend areas for improvements on policy coherence and integrated policy innovation, helping to develop well calibrated energy systems.

The index rankings provide comparisons across countries on each of the three dimensions, while historical indexed scores provide insights into the performance trends of each country over time.

UN-accredited, the World Energy Council is the world’s leading member-based global energy network and is an independent and non-political group working dynamically across the entire energy ecosystem.

The World Energy Trilemma Index:

• Energy Security: Measures a nation’s capacity to meet current and future energy demand reliably as well as withstand system shocks with minimal disruption to supplies. Covers the effective management of domestic and external energy sources, as well as the reliability and resilience of energy infrastructure.

• Energy Equity: Assesses a country’s ability to provide universal access to reliable, affordable and abundant energy for domestic and commercial use. Captures basic access to electricity and clean cooking fuels and technologies, access to prosperity-enabling levels of energy consumption, and affordability of electricity, gas and fuel.

• Environmental Sustainability: Represents the transition of a country’s energy system to mitigate and avoid potential environmental harm and climate change impacts. Focuses on productivity and efficiency of generation, transmission and distribution, decarbonization and air quality.


• To learn from leading performers and best practice

• To assess effectiveness of energy policies for enabling balanced transition management

• To analyze the urgency of competing priorities

• To test the relative impact of focus shifts and new directions

• To support dialogue on integrated policy innovation