The strong increase of energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the growing dependence on very politically unstable areas, the rising price of fossil fuels and their progressive depletion are problems that highlight the unsustainability of the current energy system. During the last two centuries there has been a massive and continuing increase in the consumption of non renewable energy sources. Before this important change in the energy system, all forms of energy sources used were renew- able. In this paper, after reconstructing the present energy situation, we’ll try to analyze the times and the ways of the transition from renewable energy sources to non renewable energy sources. The preferred scenario will be that of Europe, but we’ll also do continual reference to the situation worldwide. We’ll analyze the energy consumption in Europe in a long-term perspective, ranging from the early nineteenth century to today. After examining the evolution of energy consumption both in overall and in per capita terms, we’ll focus on changes in the structure of energy balance, highlighting the differences between different European countries in the transition from one energy system to another and the consequences in terms of CO2 emissions.
Keywords: Energy consumption, CO2 emissions, economic growth, sustainability