Missing pieces and the future of energy [Recharge]

Tesla Motors goes big on batteries; Oil prices have a fragile rally; Japan backslides on climate efforts. Stay current on global energy with the Monitor's Recharge.

Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters
Batteries are seen inside the Tesla Energy battery for businesses and utility companies during an event in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday.

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

‘Missing piece’: Leave it to Elon Musk to turn something as pedestrian as batteries into the week's most talked-about spectacle. Tesla Motors says the suite of storage products it unveiled Thursday represents "the missing piece to building a sustainable future”. Whether or not the Powerwall takes off like the company hopes it does, one thing remains clear: the future of electricity has a lot to do with how we store it. Progress toward that future just got a very slick and powerful boost.

Rally: Oil had a bullish April. Prices jumped more in a month than they have in yearson a weakening dollar and fresh concerns over violence in the Middle East. Still,there are plenty of reasons to expect the rally will fizzle. US stockpiles keep rising, Saudi Arabia keeps pumping, and idled US shale rigs are looking for any chance they can get to return to work. That’s bad news for countries like Venezuela, which is simultaneously grappling with vanishing oil revenue and a domestic power shortage.

Post-Kyoto: Japan, once at the forefront of emissions reductions, now finds itself hamstrung by Fukushima and the resulting country-wide nuclear ban. The island nation has dozens of new coal plants planned or under construction, according to a study out this week by a Japanese environmental group. It has also yet to issue its climate targets ahead of December’s Paris talks, and has come under fire for how it has allocated funds set aside for “climate finance”. It's a long road to Paris for the country that hosted the world's most significant – if flawed – climate talks.

In the pipeline

Drill deeper

Progress watch: In 2014, economies grew, emissions did not
[The Christian Science Monitor]
Broadly speaking, last year’s emissions flatlining is a sign that all the money and effort nations and businesses have poured into cleaner energy systems – expanding renewable power, curtailing carbon-heavy coal, and improving overall energy efficiency – is having an effect.

The Information Age Is Over. Welcome to the Infrastructure Age.
"[The age of infrastructure is] about how we conceive of what technology is," writes Annalee Newitz. "It’s about what kinds of gadgets we’ll be buying for ourselves in 20 years. It's about how the kids of tomorrow won’t freak out over terabytes of storage. They’ll freak out over kilowatt-hours."

These Titans of Oil Are Experts at Making Bold Predictions. (They just don't often come true) [Bloomberg]
Anybody can make predictions about oil markets, very few can make them correctly. Perhaps a good rule of thumb is to just make long-term predictions so that no one will remember them by the time the predictions are proven wrong. That is, unless Bloomberg goes digging and grades you on your forecasts...

Energy sources

  • US Energy Sec. Ernest Moniz via Monitor breakfast: "Energy infrastructure is a major target of cyberattacks. That is increasing in frequency, and perhaps source … It’s one of those areas where establishing a set of static rules doesn’t do it, because you’ve just got to stay ahead of the bad guys all the time. So far we have not had any major disruption of our energy infrastructure, but it ain’t for lack of people trying."
  • SAFE Oil Security Index: "Requiring a fiscal breakeven oil price above $80 per barrel, Saudi Arabia has projected a record-breaking fiscal deficit of $38.7 billion for 2015. Moreover, the Kingdom has begun drawing from its monetary reserves to stave off the effects of low oil prices—reducing its assets from a record $737 billion in August 2014 to $707 billion as of February 2015—a sign that the country continues to prioritize economic growth and social spending and is willing to draw on its savings to protect market share, an option many of its fellow OPEC nations do not have."
  • The Vatican: "The world has within its technological grasp, financial means, and know-how the means to mitigate climate change while also ending extreme poverty, through the application of sustainable development solutions including the adoption of low-carbon energy systems ..."


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

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