The Energy Transition is 50 years-old

October 29, 2019

 

Leadership

Canadians are beginning to wake up to the energy transition that is underway in our country. An energy transition is a long-term structural change in an energy system. In the last two centuries, Canada has experienced two.

Early European settlers relied on a pre-industrial energy system. They burned wood to stay warm, used work animals to lighten their load and harnessed the movement of water to grind grain and saw logs. With the invention of the steam engine, coal powered the first Industrial Revolution in our country. The second Industrial Age gathered momentum with the transition to centralized energy infrastructure for the generation and distribution of electricity and the distribution of oil and gas. This contemporary energy system expanded tremendously during the 20th century building our economy and contributing to our quality of life.

With each energy transition, Canadians have moved away from using local and renewable sources of energy to rely predominantly on centralized and more non-renewable energy sources, like fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Today, a third energy transition is underway to decarbonize global energy systems in what is becoming a desperate bid to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. While responding to the climate emergency is a primary driver, the roots of this modern energy transition began long before there was an international consensus on climate change.

Energy consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of where and how you use energy. 

The oil crises of the 1970s revealed how vulnerable world economies were to fluctuations in global oil supply.  Many governments took steps to buffer their national economies from future supply shocks, including Canada which invested heavily in Alberta and Saskatchewan oil sand development.

In contrast and by necessity, countries with little or no domestic oil and gas reserves pursued local and renewable energy solutions to secure their energy needs. Now, almost half a century later, these countries are leaders in the transition to a decarbonized global energy system, exporting their energy technologies and expertise around the world. We have much to learn from them and one key lesson is the role of local governments and the importance of engaging the public in growing more energy conscious communities.

Consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of one's surroundings. Energy consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of where and how you use energy.