Energy crisis: cause, solutions and options
If energy demand can no longer be met with the means and reserves available, an energy crisis occurs. This has far-reaching consequences for social and economic life. History is littered with examples, right up to modern times. In this guide, we'll clarify the causes and consequences and show which technologies are suitable for overcoming the energy crisis.
What is an energy crisis?
Industry, private households, commerce and transport need energy. Until recently, demand for energy was met primarily by fossil fuels, i.e. by burning coal, gas and oil. In contrast to biomass and renewable energies, these sources of energy are referred to as fossil fuel types. When existing energy reserves are no longer available in quantities that are sufficient to meet demand, there is an energy crisis.
Fuel shortage as a cause – examples from the past
History is replete with examples of energy crises, from the timber shortage in 18th century England to the oil crises of the early and late 1970s. Nor should we forget the crisis scenario that climate change, with all of its ecological and economic consequences, holds in store for us. Underlying all energy crises is the fact that a tried-and-tested energy source can no longer be used to the same extent as it was before. Historically, this has applied most frequently to oil. But, there are have also been crises that affect the supply of natural gas and electricity.
Depending on the energy source, the reasons for its scarcity vary. In historic England, the supply of wood disappeared due to excess tree felling for shipbuilding. The oil crises of the last century came about because of an explosion in prices due an artificial shortage of the raw material. As such, the security of our energy supply comes under threat not only when the natural limits of a raw material are reached, but also when geopolitical developments lead to shortages. The most recent example is wars that highlight the dependence on oil and gas imports of countries involved in conflicts.
Global peak oil – the final crisis
Irrespective of global political events, which can change suddenly and severely, a final crisis awaits us – the moment when natural oil reserves become depleted. It's impossible to put a date on this point in time, known as global peak oil, but one thing is nevertheless clear. Sooner or later, fossil resources will be exhausted. This is one of the reasons why the expansion of alternative energy sources has such high priority. But there are other reasons.
Climate change accelerates the energy crisis
Fossil fuel types are the main source of man-made climate change. Their combustion releases carbon dioxide (CO₂), which combined with other greenhouse gas emissions, causes global warming. The consequences are more frequent storms, storm surges due to rising sea levels and drought coupled with crop failure. Scientists put the foreseeable damage at tens of billions. One third of global CO₂ emissions come from energy supply to buildings. In private households, in turn, up to 80 percent of energy consumption is dedicated to heating. Here, there is enormous savings potential that can be utilised in order to avert the energy crisis. The key to this is renewable energies.
Use of renewable energies as a way out of the crisis
The shift towards renewable energy has the potential to halt undesirable climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources include all those that are practically inexhaustible or that renew themselves sufficiently quickly. These include:
- Geothermal energy (environmental energy)
- Solar energy
- Biomass (e.g. wood)
To be able to use renewable energies efficiently, there are a number of technologies available for the domestic, commercial and local authority sectors. These include:
- Heat pumps
- Photovoltaic systems
- Solar thermal
Since the shift to renewable heat generators cannot be completed overnight and renewable energies are not entirely free of charge, there are other measures that play a role in averting the energy crisis. First and foremost, there are energy savings and greater energy efficiency. In domestic environments, this can sometimes be achieved with simple measures, as the following section explains.
Measures and tips for the energy crisis: what can I do myself?
In view of recent energy supply crises, private users and homeowners are faced with a simple question... What can I do myself? How do I save energy? And could I even become independent of fossil fuels, whose prices fluctuate so much? The following list shows a number of measures that you can take to boost your efficiency and savings. Clicking on a link will take you to the corresponding guide.