Created in 1974 to ensure the security of oil supplies, the International Energy Agency has evolved over the years. While energy security remains a core mission, the IEA today is at the center of the global energy debate, focusing on a wide variety of issues, ranging from electricity security to investments, climate change and air pollution, energy access and efficiency, and much more.
This first oil shock led to the creation of the IEA in November 1974 with a broad mandate on energy security and energy policy cooperation. This included setting up a collective action mechanism to respond effectively to potential disruptions in oil supply. The framework was anchored in the IEA treaty called the “Agreement on an International Energy Program,” with newly created autonomous Agency hosted at the OECD in Paris.
The IEA was established as the main international forum for energy cooperation on a variety of issues such as security of supply, long-term policy, information transparency, energy efficiency, sustainability, research and development, technology collaboration, and international energy relations.
The IEA’s founding members were Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway (under a special Agreement), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. They were followed by Greece (1976), New Zealand (1977), Australia (1979), Portugal (1981), Finland (1992), France (1992), Hungary (1997), Czech Republic (2001), Republic of Korea (2002), Slovak Republic (2007), Poland (2008), Estonia (2014), and Mexico (2018) and Lithuania (2022). Chile, Colombia and Israel are seeking full membership.
The IEA is an autonomous inter-governmental organization within the OECD framework, headed by its Executive Director.
The Governing Board is the main decision-making body of the IEA, composed of energy ministers or their senior representatives from each member country. Through the IEA Ministerial Meeting that takes place every two years, the IEA Secretariat develops ideas for existing or new work programs, which are then discussed with member countries in various IEA committees and ultimately presented to the Governing Board for approval. In addition to the Governing Board, the IEA has several Standing Groups, Committees and Working Parties made up of member country government officials that meet several times a year.
The Governing Board is the main decision-making body of the IEA. It is composed of energy ministers or their senior representatives from each member country.
The Governing Board holds three to four meetings at the Director General (or equivalent) level each year to discuss global energy developments along with the Agency’s work with the Executive Director and other senior Secretariat staff. The outcomes of Governing Board meetings are binding on all member countries. The Governing Board also has the final responsibility for administrative matters of the IEA, including approving the biennial Program of Work and Budget.
The voting system is outlined in Articles 61 and 62 of the IEA constituent documents, the International Energy Program, or IEP Agreement. A majority vote, a system that allocates voting weights to each member country, is required for all decisions on the management of the IEA Program of Work, and on procedural questions and recommendations. However, majority vote is based on a system of voting weights allocated to each member country. Unanimity is required for all decisions other than those that call for a majority vote, or a special majority vote. For example, unanimity is required for the activation of emergency measures specified in the IEP Agreement.
Every two years, ministers from member countries gather for the IEA Ministerial Meeting. The high-level Ministerial Meeting sets broad strategic priorities for the IEA. The Ministerial may instruct the IEA to focus on a specific issue or suggest a direction during the meeting discussions.
Through the IEA Ministerial, the Secretariat develops ideas for existing or new work programs, which are then discussed with member countries in various IEA committees and ultimately presented to the Governing Board for approval.
The 2017 IEA Ministerial meeting highlighted the IEA’s role as the world’s leading energy authority and a global hub for clean energy. The 2017 meeting also allowed IEA ministers to review steps the agency should take to extend its modernization mandate, an agenda laid out in the 2015 ministerial meeting. The mandate is based on three pillars: expanding the IEA’s mandate on energy security beyond oil to natural gas and electricity; opening the agency’s doors to emerging countries; and turning the IEA into a global clean energy hub, including for energy efficiency.
The size of the IEA budget and the scope of its work, known as the Program of Work and Budget, are determined every two years by IEA member countries. With the approval of the IEA governing board, countries and other energy stakeholders may make voluntary contributions to support and strengthen a wide range of activities in the IEA Program of Work and Budget. In 2017, about a third of the IEA’s spending was financed by such voluntary contributions, which mostly came from government sources.
The Agency also receives some funding from private sources and contributions in-kind, especially in the form of staff on loan. Unlike the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, the IEA does not dispense grants or make loans.
The IEA operates within the financial framework of the OECD, and the OECD Council appoints a Supreme Audit Institution of a member country, which performs an independent external auditing of the IEA’s accounts and financial management.
Standing Groups and Committees
In addition to the Governing Board, the IEA has several Standing Committees that are made up of member country government officials, which meet several times a year.
The Standing Group on Emergency Questions (SEQ) is responsible for all aspects of oil emergency preparedness and collective response to supply disruptions.
The Standing Group on the Oil Market (SOM) monitors and analyses short and medium-term developments in the international oil market to help member countries react promptly and effectively to market changes.
The Standing Group on Long-Term Cooperation (SLT) encourages cooperation among IEA member countries to ensure collective energy security, improve economic efficiency of their energy sector and promote environmental protection in provision of energy services. The SLT has also established the Working Party on Energy Efficiency.
The Standing Group on Global Energy Dialogue (SGD) is responsible for work with countries and regions outside of the IEA membership, including China and India. Many SGD projects draw upon both regional and sectoral expertise and are carried out jointly with other IEA divisions.
The Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT) coordinates and promotes the development, demonstration and deployment of technologies to meet challenges in the energy sector. The CERT has established four working parties: the Working Party on Fossil Energy; the Working Party on Renewable Energy Technologies; the Working Party on Energy End-Use Technologies; and the Fusion Power Coordinating Committee. The Experts’ Group on R&D Priority-Setting and Evaluation (EGRD) is an informal advisory group under the CERT. It supports CERT delegates with advice on R&D priority-setting, linkages to governmental policy objectives and methods in the evaluation of R&D activities, and an understanding of emerging R&D topics.
The Committee on Budget and Expenditure (CBE) advises the Governing Board on resource management and administration. In particular, it advises the Governing Board on budget matters.
The IEA’s work is also informed by a variety of partnerships with business and industrial partners from all sectors, who provide valuable input into the agency’s work.
The IEA Technology Collaboration Program (TCP) is a series of about 40 international partnerships that enable governments, businesses, industries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to share research on breakthrough technologies, to fill existing research gaps, build pilot plants and carry out deployment or demonstration programs.
The Energy Business Council (EBC) is an executive-level group comprised of leading international companies involved in both the supply and demand side of the energy sector, as well as financial institutions and large technology manufacturers. The EBC is the overarching body through which the IEA interacts with industry. Its work helps inform IEA analysis and remain grounded in real-world solutions. It also establishes a forum for discussions among ministers and industry leaders on long-term stable policy frameworks needed to stimulate investment in sustainable energy infrastructure.
The International Low-Carbon Energy Technology Platform (Technology Platform) is the IEA’s chief tool for multilateral engagement on clean technologies among its member and partner countries, the business community and other international organizations.
The Renewable Industry Advisory Board (RIAB), set up in 2011, is made up of private-sector entities from OECD member countries, and informs the Working Party on Renewable Energy Technologies and the IEA Secretariat of market-relevant information, industry advice and data.
The Coal Industry Advisory Board (CIAB), set up in 1979, allows high-level executives from coal-related enterprises to provide information about the current state of their industry.
Past and Present Leadership
The IEA has had seven Executive Directors since its creation: Ulf Lantzke, Germany (1975-1984); Helga Steeg, Germany (1984-1994); Robert Priddle, United Kingdom (1994-2003); Claude Mandil, France (2003-2007); Nobuo Tanaka, Japan (2007-2011); Maria van der Hoeven, Netherlands (2011-2015); and Dr Fatih Birol, Turkey (since 2015).