Abstract.

Energy in the form of controlled fire changed dramatically the course of human evolution on planet Earth. Fire allowed early humans to stay warm, cook nutritious food and meat, kill bacteria and pathogenic microbes, ward off predators and gave the opportunity for humans to venture into colder climates all over the world. Fire during the agricultural revolution and later fossil fuels with the advent of industrial revolutions contributed to the development of human civilization and economic prosperity. But burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) increased substantially CO2 emissions and caused global warming. The United Nations IPCC (International Panel for Climate Change) raised the alarm and asked for emissions to be reduced dramatically in the future if global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Our planet Earth is currently undergoing an historic energy transition, driven by increasingly stringent decarbonisation policies, rapid advances in low-carbon technologies and investing in renewable energy sources (hydropower, photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, wave power). At the same time the large-scale shift to low-carbon energy sources is disrupting the global energy system, impacting whole economies, and changing the geopolitical dynamics within and between countries. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine (2022) has roiled the markets and geopolitics of energy, driving oil and gas prices to their highest levels in nearly a decade and forcing many countries to reconsider their energy supplies. Russia is the world’s largest oil exporter to global markets, and its natural gas fuels the European economy. The unprovoked attack prompted the USA, the European Union and others (UK) to have imposed economic sanctions.

Over the last two centuries fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) have shaped the geopolitical energy map. The recent decision of developed countries to advance the energy transformation to renewables it is expected to alter the global distribution of power, relations between states, the risk of conflict, and the social, economic and environmental drivers of geopolitical instability. In the last two decades energy production and electricity generation has changed dramatically. But despite producing more and more energy from renewables each year, the global energy mix (around 75%) is still dominated by coal, oil, and gas and reductions will take the last 30 years to realize the purpose of reversing climate change.  Renewables have moved to the centre of the global energy landscape. Technological advances and falling costs have made renewables grow faster than any other energy source. Renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels in the production of electricity and the power sector in general. There is widespread recognition that the most significant roadblocks preventing rapid decarbonisation were social and political rather than technological. Roadblocks included: the power of the fossil fuel industry and other vested interests; political paralysis and denial; social and technological path dependencies; financial, governance and implementation constraints; and the dominant neoliberal economic paradigm of unsustainable consumption and inequitable wealth distribution.

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