United States and world energy systems are in a period of tremendous change, driven by technological advances, cultural and social pressures, and government policies to respond to the threat of climate change. Studying the history of energy illuminates this current moment, helping us to identify what questions to ask, to see what trends and patterns might repeat themselves, and to understand what is truly new and unprecedented.  

Through curated teaching units and a library of curated teaching materials, Energy History Online seeks to promote energy literacy among students, practitioners, and the interested public.  Only by understanding the complex historical forces that created our current predicament can we hope to create a more just and sustainable energy system in the future. 

Patterns of energy consumption started to change significantly in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Who should develop and control electric power resources? In the 1920s and 1930s, private electric companies struggled with state and federal governments over how the vital new infrastructure would be built and made accessible.

The era of large-scale hydroelectric dam building spanned roughly four decades, from the 1930s through the 1960s. Symbolically, the era commenced with Hoover Dam’s dedication in 1935.

Large-scale dams suggested engineering mastery over the vagaries of nature and structural social and economic conditions.

Almost since its inception, nuclear technology has raised challenging questions about the goals, costs, and the very nature of progress.

From right before World War II until the late 1950s, American architects and engineers experimented with solar house heating and solar houses were built across the Midwest, Northeast, and Southwestern United States.