Historical energy transitions: Speed, prices and system transformation


Abstract

The relatively rare and protracted nature of energy transitions implies that it is vital to look at historical experiences for lessons about how they might unfold in the future. The fastest historical sector-specific energy transitions observed here was thirty years. However, full energy transitions, involving all sectors and services, have taken much longer. Ultimately, the price of energy services played a crucial role in creating the incentives to stimulate energy transitions, but energy price shocks may have acted as a catalyst for stimulating processes that led to certain energy transitions. An additional key factor is whether the new technology offers new characteristics of value to the consumer, which can help create a market even when the initial price is higher. A crucial factor that can delay a transition is the reaction of the incumbent and declining industries. Nevertheless, governments have, in a few instances, created the institutional setting to stimulate energy transitions to low-polluting energy sources, and this could be done again, if the political will and alternative energy sources were available. Finally, past energy transitions have had major impacts on the incumbent industries which have declined, on economic transformations and on inequality.

Fouquet, Roger (2016). Historical energy transitions: speed, prices and system transformation. Energy Research & Social Science, 22 . pp. 7-12. ISSN 2214-6296