The origin of the energy transition: mega-trends

Development of an energy system is driven by major forces of growth and change, which modify and shape the entire social organisation and production system, and direct the collective consciousness and the main choices of entrepreneurs, consumers and policy-makers. These forces are referred to as mega-trends. Indeed, mega-trends are what drive the new energy transition and its timing, as they influence:

  • political decisions, for example, inducing legislators to enact more or less restrictive environmental regulations or to favour the use of certain energy sources over others;
  • technological innovation, for example, by directing industry and research to develop and market new technologies that meet emerging needs;
  • consumer preferences, changing the composition of demand and consequently the supply mix, for example, by making the technologies and energy sources available on the market more or less competitive.

The end result is the achievement of a new energy model, which reflects the various objectives of the individual mega-trends in action in a mediated way.

This image shows some of the most important mega-trends guiding the development of the energy system. Source: Giuseppe Sammarco, “LA TRANSIZIONE ENERGETICA” (ENERGY TRANSITION), published by Eni SpA, Piazzale Enrico Mattei, 1 – 00144 Rome

Let’s find out the main mega-trends guiding the development of the energy system:

  • Industrial development. Since much of the world has yet to experience widespread industrial development, we can assume that the mega-trend has not exhausted its driving function and, by continuing to fuel economic growth in developing countries, will trigger a cascade of persistent increases in global energy needs.
  • Energy security. One of the key issues for the future is to ensure that we have a reliable and stable flow of energy that is adequate to meet the growing demand and maintain the level of prosperity we have achieved. All the more so if, as mentioned in point 1, industrial development continues to affect ever-widening sections of territory and population.
  • Widespread use of mass transport for people and goods. Like industrial development, the phenomenon is still unknown in many countries and will have a high impact on the world’s overall energy needs in the coming years.
  • Reduction of emissions of pollutants related to the energy sector. The focus on reducing local impact emissions of pollutants caused by the production and use of energy sources has led to the introduction of increasingly stringent emission standards and triggered important technological innovation processes.

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