Soaring demand for fossil fuels, stemming from new consumer heavyweights coincides with an urgent need to decarbonize global energy systems. At the same time, providing the ‘bottom billion’ with access to modern forms of energy is a humanitarian imperative as much as it is making energy systems sustainable. Managing these intertwined challenges requires effective governance on a global scale. This article lays out the main challenges that need to be addressed during the looming energy transition process; based on that, it reviews the existing literature in the fields of international relations, global (public) policy and global governance dealing with these challenges. It argues that the subject of global energy governance remains understudied; that existing scholarly works are characterized by a lopsided attention to the selected aspects of global energy instead of accounting for the intertwined challenges of security, climate change and energy access; and that, as a consequence, further and more holistic research is urgently needed.