10 Countries With The Most Balanced Energy Systems

When trying to meet energy sustainability, security, and affordability goals–no nation does it perfectly, but Norway does it best.

As governments consider their future energy supplies, they face a so-called “trilemma.” Somehow they need to balance the rival demands of affordability, sustainability, and security–and, as any politician wants to do, keep everyone happy.


With the World Economic Forum’s “Global Energy Architecture Performance Index,” you can get a sense how well each country is doing. The EAPI crunches multiple datasets for each category, including measures of efficiency and economic growth under “affordability,” emissions, and level of low-carbon sources under “sustainability,” and supply diversity and self-sufficiency under “security.”

The results, as you would expect, are very mixed. Countries do well for sustainability, but fall down for affordability. Or, they do well for security, yet lag on greenhouse emissions and efficiency. And so on.

No country is perfect–though there are clear regional leaders, as you can see in the heat map below. The best performers–those countries in greatest balance–are from Europe, with 15 of the top 20 on the list. North America sits in the middle as a region (the U.S. is in 37th place, Canada in 14th). The Middle East and North Africa come in last, with Sub-Saharan Africa not much better off.

Most of the top 50 nations are richer Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members, with a few exceptions. Costa Rica and Colombia, for example, both make it to the top 10, scoring well across the three areas.

Norway comes in at the top of the 124 energy systems the WEF looked at (with help from the consulting firm Accenture). That’s mainly because it has exceptional energy security (it has a lot of oil and gas), but also because it hasn’t gone the way of other resource-rich states in exploiting those resources without sustainability in mind. New Zealand comes next on the strength of its energy diversity, renewables (including a lot of hydropower) and relative efficiency. France, in third, scores well mostly for its low carbon sourcing–45% of its supply comes from nuclear energy.


The U.S., which appears below countries like the Russian Federation (28th) and Mexico (36th), has a good energy security score (0.84 out of 1), mainly because of the recent domestic oil and gas boom. But it scores only 0.34 for sustainability (France has 0.73 for that measure) and a middling 0.57 for economic metrics. “While the resource wealth and investments in renewables are driving high scores for Canada and the United States in energy security, low performance in environmental indicators of both countries remains a key challenge,” the report says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.