本期原著选自The Economist 2017-02-25的小说Clean energy’s dirty


Clean energy’s dirty secret

The renewables【1】 revolution is wrecking【2】 the
world’s electricity markets. Here’s what to do


【1】renewables 可再生财富

ERC成员Viraphol Jirapraditkul表示:

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ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells【3】 and wind
were invented, they still generate only 7% of the
world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening. From being
peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now
growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs
are making them competitive with fossil fuels【5】. BP, an oil
firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global
energy supply over the next 20 years. It is no longer
far-fetched【6】 to think that the world is entering an era of
clean, unlimited and cheap power. About time, too.


【3】photovoltaic cell光伏电瓶


【4】wind turbine风力涡轮机

New regulations drafted by Thailand officials demand that electricity
producers using blockchain be charged additional fees. Government
regulators fear an explosion in independent power generation will lead
to a reduction in revenue.

【5】fossil fuel化石燃料,矿物燃料

Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has demanded the
fees be paid as a subsidy for potentially destabilizing effects
blockchain technology brings, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

【6】far-fetched 牵强附会,不敢相信 无法相信的

“The number of household solar rooftop power generators is increasing
rapidly. That’s why the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) needs to
develop regulation that is fair for everybody,” declared ERC member
Viraphol Jirapraditkul.

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There is a growing number of Thai companies leveraging distributed
ledger technology (DLT) to help homeowners profit from rooftop solar
systems. A new generation of blockchain-savvy consumers is muscling the
state-owned utilities out of profits by buying and selling surplus solar
energy on decentralized peer-to-peer (p2p) energy markets.

There is a $20trn hitch【7】, though. To get from here to there
requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to
replace old smog-belching【8】 power plants and to upgrade the
pylons【9】 and wires that bring electricity to consumers.
Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because
it offers reliable returns. Yet green energy has a dirty secret. The
more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any
source. That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free
future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty,
need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. Unless the
market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow.

As the markets grow bigger, less electricity is being purchased directly
from the state-run utilities, meaning less profits for the traditional
power industry.

【7】hitch钩住(v),困难,故障,结(n);get hitched 结婚

Here, we are witnessing the decentralization of the energy sector, in
Thailand at least. Andreas Antonopolous thinks that this is one of the
“most important trends in human history.” Despite the benefits of p2p
energy markets, the fact that governments can just impose additional
fees to compensate puts a real dampener on things.

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It was only a year ago that Thailand rolled back strict restrictions on
non-government solar power generation. Bangkok Post reported that the
Thai government allowed households and businesses to sell surplus energy
generated by solar panels back to EGAT last September, but I guess it
didn’t count on blockchain being adopted by the p2p energy community so



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Policymakers are already seeing this inconvenient truth as a reason to
put the brakes on renewable energy. In parts of Europe and China,
investment in renewables is slowing as subsidies are cut
. However, the solution is not less wind and solar. It is
to rethink how the world prices clean energy in order to make better
use of it.

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【10】cut back (on sth)削减,减少

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Shock to the system

At its heart, the problem is that government-supported renewable
energy has been imposed on a market designed in a different era. For
much of the 20th century, electricity was made and moved by vertically
integrated, state-controlled monopolies. From the 1980s onwards, many
of these were broken up, privatised and liberalised, so that market
forces could determine where best to invest. Today only about 6% of
electricity users get their power from monopolies. Yet everywhere the
pressure to decarbonise【11】 power supply has brought the state
creeping back into【12】 markets. This is disruptive for three
reasons. The first is the subsidy system itself. The other two are
inherent to the nature of wind and solar: their intermittency and
their very low running costs. All three help explain why power prices
are low and public subsidies are addictive.


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【12】creep in/into sth 开头发生(或影响)

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First, the splurge【13】 of public subsidy, of about $800bn
since 2008, has distorted the market. It came about for noble reasons—
to counter climate change and prime the pump【14】 for new,
costly technologies, including wind turbines and solar
. But subsidies hit【16】 just as electricity
consumption in the rich world was stagnating because of growing energy
efficiency and the financial crisis. The result was a glut【17】
of power-generating capacity that has slashed the revenues utilities
earn from wholesale power markets and hence deterred investment.


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【14】prime the pump投资振兴

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