by Emma Foehringer Merchant
March 07, 2019

This week I hosted a webinar on the concept of the energy transition. Since technical difficulties triggered a "point of no return" and the stream cut out, I’ll dig into some of the themes and questions from the webinar in this column.

First, a definition of the “energy transition." The concept broadly means a structural shift in our energy system as it moves from running on thermal resources to relying, in part or fully, on zero-carbon resources like wind and solar. The transition stretches beyond electricity to encompass the entire economy, from industry to agriculture and transportation. While electricity will account for a growing portion of energy use in these sectors — the “electrify everything” idea — the transition may also include technologies like liquid renewable fuels and carbon capture and storage, depending who you ask. 

And though it’s widely recognized that renewables are gaining on the grid, there’s still debate about how fast the transition will take place. Energy research and consulting company Wood Mackenzie, for instance, sets the transition’s ‘point of no return’ at 2035. Others, like oil and gas majors, are more bullish about a substantial role for oil and gas in coming decades.