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The Understand Energy Learning Hub is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

The Accelerating Energy Transition

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Fast Facts About
The Accelerating Energy Transition

This is an exciting time for the energy industry—energy revolutions are underway and things are changing quickly. Fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and biomass have dominated the energy landscape for centuries and are the leading contributors to global climate change, hazardous environmental impacts, and human health issues. However, global energy production is now shifting to clean sources, like energy efficiency and renewables, that release little to no greenhouse gases and have fewer environmental impacts. This shift is critical to reaching net zero* goals and limiting the increase in global average temperatures, as well as improving air quality and reducing the human health effects of energy.

*Net zero - achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out.

Why We Care About Energy


Green dollar sign

Social and private costs


Capitol building with domed roof

Foreign policy, energy security and stability



Energy access and equity


Green leaves

Immediate and legacy impacts (global and local)


Red cross

Medical access, diseases


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Change in Carbon Intensity* of the
Global Energy System
42% decrease

1980: .45 tCO2 per USD 1000 GDP
2021: .26 tCO2 per USD 1000 GDP

*Carbon intensity is the measure of CO2 produced per dollar of GDP.

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Change in Carbon Intensity of the
US Energy System
65% decrease

1980: .60 tCO2 per USD 1000 GDP
2021: .21 tCO2 per USD 1000 GDP

Watch this UChicago visualization of Energy Transitions in US History from 1800-2021.

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Energy Revolutions Happening

Future Energy Revolution

  • Geothermal (poised for growth)
  • Hydrogen (420% growth in VC investment from 2017-2022)
  • Small Modular Reactors - SMR (R&D, momentum to commercialize )
  • Fusion (R&D, momentum to commercialize)
  • Pricing of GHGs (carbon markets)

Before You Watch Our Lecture on
The Accelerating Energy Transition

We assign videos and readings to our Stanford students as pre-work for each lecture to help contextualize the lecture content. We strongly encourage you to watch the Essential video below before watching our lecture on The Accelerating Energy Transition. Include selections from the Optional and Useful list based on your interests and available time.


Optional and Useful

Geopolitical Zoom-In: How Russia's Invasion of Ukraine Impacts the Global Energy System

Our Lecture on
The Accelerating Energy Transition

This is our Stanford University Understand Energy course lecture on the accelerating energy transition. We strongly encourage you to watch the full lecture to understand how the energy landscape is changing and why this is a very exciting time to be learning about energy. For a complete learning experience, we also encourage you to watch the Essential video we assign to our students before watching the lecture.

Diana Gragg

Presented by: Diana Gragg, PhD; Core Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Explore Energy Managing Director, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University
Recorded on: September 27, 2023   Duration: 40 minutes

Table of Contents

(Clicking on a timestamp will take you to YouTube.)
00:00 Where Our Energy Comes From 
14:19 Why Should We Care About Energy? 
29:58 How About a Revolution?

Lecture slides available upon request.

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