From Past to Future Energy: innovation fuelling Expos, 1851-2017

From Past to Future Energy: innovation fuelling Expos, 1851-2017

On 10 June, Expo 2017 will open in Astana, Kazakhstan, under the theme “Future Energy.” The Specialised Expo will be an opportunity for host country and international participants alike to showcase the latest technologies and innovations in energy production, storage, access and use.

While the organisers, participants and visitors to Expo 2017 Astana will rightly focus on the latest innovations and trends that will shape the future of energy, the past can also provide inspiration. Previous Expos, at which innovation has been showcased and celebrated, may serve as an example and teach us lessons about the future.

London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 was the first international gathering of its kind, bringing 25 countries together to showcase the best and the greatest art, industry and technology in the midst of the industrial revolution. Among the innovative machinery and increasingly powerful locomotives presented at the Expo, the energy was almost always provided by the steam engine, which in turn were powered by coal.

The steam engine, in some ways an icon of the industrial revolution, transformed society and the economy, spurring the development of the manufacturing sector and leading to the railway boom. Expo 1851 was the first chance for many ordinary people to get up and close to steam engines, to learn about how they work and to discover how they could shape the future. But it was not long before alternatives appeared, offering a competitor to steam and widening the field of possibilities for energy production and use.

In the run-up to Expo 2017 Astana, the BIE will look back on the energy innovations showcased, promoted and developed at past Expos. Each week will see a new post on the BIE Blog telling the story of energy as viewed through the optic of Expos. The series will trace the story of energy from a time when steam was king through to the dawn of electricity, the nuclear age and beyond. Expos have served as points of reference, offering a window to the future through their technological exhibits and an insight into the challenges and concerns of the time.

The series will draw to a close when Expo 2017 opens its gates, giving participants and visitors the chance to play their own role in experiencing and shaping the future of energy.

Opinions given by external contributors to the Expo Blog do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the BIE