A history of energy transitions
Throughout history, humankind has experienced several energy transitions. Societies and economies over the ages have moved from burning carbon-heavy fuels in order to provide heat, power, and light, to burning various iterations of less carbon-intensive fuels to heat our homes, cook our food, power our factories, and fuel our modes of transportation.1 Today, the energy mix consists of coal, oil, and natural gas, with nuclear and hydropower providing a stable baseload of electricity, and renewable energies such as wind and solar power growing rapidly, albeit from a small base.
After the 1973 oil crisis, the term “energy transition” was embraced by politicians and the media. However, it was not until Jimmy Carter spoke of “a transition in the way people use energy” in his 1977 Address to the Nation on Energy that the term became popularized and more widespread.2
We use the term “energy evolution” to describe what we assume will be a very gradual transition (i.e. an evolution) from a fossil-fuel based system to cleaner modes of energy production, storage, supply, and consumption.