At the turn of the new millennium, the system of international relations experienced a moment of extraordinary transformation initiated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of bipolarity on a global level. This transformation was characterized by the emergence of a hegemonic power—the United States—and by the affirmation of a multipolar world driven by a series of regional powers, first among them China. The energy sector has followed this period of change at almost the same pace, also experiencing a gradual change in balance and dynamics at the international level. In the space of a few years, there has been a shift from stable and predictable (though complex) relationships between the nucleus of consumer countries belonging to the block of western democracies, the OECD, and a relatively small group of producers gathered around OPEC (plus Russia), to a world characterized by new and rapidly expanding areas of production and consumption—especially in East Asia. This transformation has generated a rarely experienced level of complexity in energy relations at the transnational level, which have proven difficult to manage through the governance models established in previous decades.
The change, on both fronts, seems unstoppable. In recent years, violent attacks on the process of globalization and traditional models of multilateral cooperation, and the emergence of strong pressure for an energy transition, have been redesigning the requirements and relationships of the various international actors in the field of energy, making them decidedly more complex. This complexity makes it ever more urgent—albeit extremely difficult—to define new stable and inclusive international governance architectures.