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The Big Take

Global Energy Crisis Is the First of Many in the Clean-Power Era

The next several decades could see more periods of energy-driven inflation, fuel shortages and lost economic growth as electricity supplies are left vulnerable to shocks.

Employees patrol a liquefied natural gas terminal in Qingdao, China’s Shandong Province. In China, even as the government pushes to ramp up renewable power, the industrial economy still relies heavily on fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil.

Employees patrol a liquefied natural gas terminal in Qingdao, China’s Shandong Province. In China, even as the government pushes to ramp up renewable power, the industrial economy still relies heavily on fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil.

Photographer: VCG/Getty Images
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The world is living through the first major energy crisis of the clean-power transition. It won’t be the last.

The shortages jolting natural gas and electricity markets from the U.K. to China are unfolding just as demand roars back from the pandemic. But the planet has faced volatile energy markets and supply squeezes for decades. What’s different now is that the richest economies are also undergoing one of the most ambitious overhauls of their power systems since the dawn of the electric age -- with no easy way to store the energy generated from renewable sources.