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Germany's clean-energy turning point [Recharge]

Saudi Arabia's new king pledges no change in oil policy; Republicans and Democrats vote on climate change; Germany's Energiewende has a big year. Catch up on global energy with Recharge. 

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    Wind turbines produce green energy in Nauen near Berlin, Germany.
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Recharge is a weekly email digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor reporters David J. Unger and Jared Gilmour.

House of SaudA regime change in the world’s largest oil exporter doesn't alter the fundamentals of an oversupplied oil market. Prices briefly spiked on news of King Abdullah’s passing, but quickly settled as it became clear there would be no major energy policy shift – for now, at least. The more important question is who will succeed Abdullah’s septuagenarian successor, King Salman. Meanwhile, an escalating crisis next door in Yemen raises concerns about regional oil security.

98-1: A funny thing happened in Washington this week: near unanimous agreement on a subject that has long fallen along partisan lines. Republican and Democrat senators are now on the record agreeing that climate change is real. Separately, GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rand Paul went as far to say humans play a role. The statements represent small steps toward common ground on addressing heat-trapping emissions from energy and other sectors.

Recommended: Oil prices: 5 reasons they keep falling

Energie: Mounting evidence suggests that in 2014, renewable energy overtook lignite as Germany’s No. 1* electricity source for the first time ever. The Energiewende – Germany’s ambitious plan to wean itself off fossil and nuclear fuel – is far from perfect, and plenty of challenges lie ahead in balancing intermittent sources. Still, it’s a technological marvel that the world’s fourth largest economy derived more than a quarter of its power from infinitely replenishable sources. If a clean-energy economy is the 21st century’s moon race, then Germany is winning.

* German statistics count lignite separately from other coal. When taken altogether, coal remains king.

In the pipeline

Drill deeper

Broken Landscape: Confronting India’s Water-Energy Choke Point
[The Wilson Center]
This short documentary film takes us to India’s coal-rich Meghalaya state, where migrants and locals engaged in small-scale coal mining clash with area fishermen who say coal runoff threatens their livelihood. It's a nuanced, human look at a struggle to balance demand for water, food, and energy in a country that increasingly needs all three.

The next energy revolution won’t be in wind or solar. It will be in our brains. [The Washington Post]
Renewables aren’t the only way to shrink the world’s carbon footprint. Behavioral changes are an equally potent avenue for drastically cutting energy use – something as little as setting the thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees overnight could lead to a 2.8 percent gain in US household energy savings.

GOP looks to take a position on climate change, but how? [The Washington Examiner]
“I think there will be a political problem for the Republican Party going into 2016 if we don’t define what we are for on the environment,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, who has supported cap-and-trade and is a moderate on climate change. “I don’t know what the environmental policy of the Republican Party is.”

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Energy sources

  • OIES: "Abandoning South Stream, which looked very complicated from a regulatory point of view, in favour of direct undersea pipelines to Turkey, prioritises Gazprom’s second biggest market, and its only European market with major expansion possibilities over the next decade."
  • SAFE: "At current oil prices, the IMF and other analysts suggest that Saudi Arabia will begin running a fiscal deficit as soon as this year. And while the Kingdom has ample foreign reserves to draw on to plug any gaps in its budget, the new leadership will nonetheless have to walk a delicate balance as it deals with internal governance issues, mounting regional tensions, and rising economic and fiscal challenges."
  • BNEF: "America’s wind installations grew six-fold in 2014, making the United States the world’s second-largest wind market behind China ..."

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Recharge is a weekly email digest of energy news and analysis written by Monitor reporters David J. Unger and Jared Gilmour.

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