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Top 14 Energy Stories of 2014

2014 was another big year for energy news and commentary at From the impacts of tumbling oil prices and the largest climate march in history to debates over Germany’s energy policies and a practical guides to buying a new light was full of insightful analysis, informative articles, and rich debate. 

Here’s a round-up of our top 14 articles from 2014…

#1. Are Declining Oil Prices Increasing the Risks to OPEC, U.S. Energy Security or Clean Fuels Supplies?

As oil prices took a surprising and drammatic plunge this fall, John Miller penned our most popular article of the year, which explains what cheaper oil means for energy consumers, geopolitics, and the propects for alternative fuels. As Miller writes, tumbling world crude oil prices could be a boon for energy consumers and international economies. At the same time, declining oil prices can also end up creating significant and real risks to oil supplying nations, including Russia and OPEC members, as well as current policies supporting alternative energy. Read more…

Oil prices in 2014
Image source:

#2. Germany’s Energiewende Troubles Prove That Renewable Energy Has Failed. And Other Strange Ideas

The always-provocative Robert Wilson argues that 2014 demonstrated conclusively that Germany’s Energiewende, or energy transition, is “is a confused mess.” Germany’s energy policies have ramped up renewables quickly, while simulatneously building more coal power plants and closing nuclear power plants, and the results add up to very little in carbon emissions reductions. Yet critically discussing Germany’s renewable energy challenges does not imply that “renewables have failed” or anything like it, Wilson writes. Germany’s Energiewende has become a perverse synecdoche for the fate of renewables worldwide, Wilson contends, and that’s a shame. The real lesson from Germany is not that “solar and renewables are a failure”, but rather: “build solar where the sun shines.” (Be sure to check out the vigorous debate this post sparked in the comments, which has reached 214 comments to date!). Read more…

#3. Why Germany’s Nuclear Phase Out is Leading to More Coal Burning

Speaking of Germany: in the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Germany ordered the shutdown of 8 nuclear power plants. At the same time, between 2011 and 2015 Germany will open 10.7 GW of new coal fired power stations, more new coal coal capacity than was constructed in the entire two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As Robert Wilson explains, the expected annual electricity production of these power stations will far exceed that of existing solar panels and will be approximately the same as that of Germany’s existing solar panels and wind turbines combined (see figure below). According to Wilson, this raft of new coal plants is a direct result of Germany’s decision to turn their back on nuclear, and the backstory here goes back all the way to the birth of the Energiewende policies in 2002. Get the full story here…

Annual production of new German coal plants vs wind and solarImage source: Robert Wilson


#4. Reality Check: Germany Does Not Get Half of its Energy from Solar Panels

In the last part of this popular trilogy on Germany’s energy policy, Robert Wilson takes aim at a popular but completely false myth: that “Germany now gets half of its energy from solar panels.” Culling from offiical German statistics, Wilson explains that the real share of solar in Germany’s electricity supply is ten times lower: only 4.5% of Germany’s gross electricity generation came from solar panels in 2013. In reality, nearly half of Germany’s electricity still comes from coal, and as the story above makes clear, this ratio isn’t declining anytime soon. Get the facts here…

#5. Will That $25 Light Bulb Really Save You Money?

OK enough with Germany! In this practical post, Sarah Battaglia compares the costs of buying and owning a LED light bulb versus conventional incandescent bulbs as well as CFLs and halogens. Lighting typically accounts for about 20-30% of a household’s electricity bill, so making wise choices about which bulb to use is critical for the pocketbook, as well as the environment. And despite an up to $25 price tag for a new LED bulb, Battaglia runs the numbers on the full cost of each lighting option and finds that that seemingly cheap incandescent light will cost you almost four times as much as an efficient LED. Check out Battaglia’s side-by-side cost comparison chart below (click to enlarge) and read the full guide to lighting purchases here…

Side by side comparison of cost of ownership of LED light bulbs vs CFLs, Halogens and Incandescents
Side by side comparison of cost of ownership of LED light bulbs vs CFLs, halogens and incandescents
(Click to enlarge). Image source: Sarah Battaglia

And here’s the rest of our Top 14 from 2014!

#6. The Catch-22 of Energy Storage by John Morgan (guest blogging for Barry Brook)

#7. What Everyone Should Know About Deregulated Electricity Markets by Sarah Battaglia

#8. China’s Electricity Sector at a Glance by Michael Davidson

#9. Low Oil Prices: Sign of a Debt Bubble Collapse, Leading to the End of Oil Supply? by Gail Tverberg

#10. High Renewable Energy Costs Damage the German Economy by Willem Post

#11. Can Coal Fly Ash Waste Be Put To Good Use? by Ed Dodge

#12. How Big Is The World’s Biggest Solar Farm? by Robert Wilson

#13. Which Countries Produce The Most Fossil Fuels? by Robert Wilson

#14. How Does the People’s Climate March Stack Up Against the Largest Protest Rallies in U.S. History? by Jesse Jenkins

Finally, a note from the Energy Collective team:

It was another great year for, with traffic growing by 20 percent, and several new dedicated columns launched featuring exclusive commentary on everything from opportunties for green growth to the intersection of energy and humand development in the emerging economies. 

As always, our amazing and diverse community of expert contributors fuels this site. On behalf of the Social Media Today and staff, I want to thank all of you who contributed to the site in 2014! We wouldn’t be here without you.

Here’s to another great year to come in 2015!


Jesse Jenkins, Digital Strategy Consultant,

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