本期原著选自The Economist 2017-02-2伍的文章Clean energy’s dirty
By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-05 17:44
Clean energy’s dirty secret
The renewables【1】 revolution is wrecking【2】 the
world’s electricity markets. Here’s what to do
Solar power projects, such as this one shaped like giant pandas in
Datong, Shanxi province, are now a common sight.
The renewables revolution is wrecking the world’s electricity markets.
Here’s what to do
being peripheral to: not as important as other things or people in
a particular activity, idea, or situation
威尼斯人开户 ，e.g. The romance is peripheral to the main plot of the movie.
competitive: as good as or better than others
far-fetched: extremely unlikely to be true or to happen
e.g. The whole story sounds very far-fetched.
净空财富的脏乱差秘密，词汇解析。hitch: a small problem that makes something difficult or delays it
for a short time
e.g. In spite of some technical hitches, the first program was a
e.g. The whole show went without a hitch .
put the brakes on sth: to stop something that is happening
cut back: If you cut back something such as expenditure or cut
back on it, you reduce it.
e.g. The Government has cut back on defence spending.
三）政策制定者已经把那些尴尬的本质看作停止可再生财富的1个缘由。在澳大圣Pedro苏拉联邦（Commonwealth of Australia）和中华的有些地域，可再生能源的投资正在缓慢，因为补贴被削减。可是，消除方案不是更加少的风和太阳能。而是重新思量世界哪些为清新财富定价，以便越来越好地利用它。
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 power supply has
brought the state creeping back into 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
First, the splurge of public subsidy, of about 800bn dollars
since 2008, has distorted the market. It came about for noble
reasons—to counter climate change and prime the pump for new,
costly technologies, including wind turbines and solar panels. But
subsidies hit just as electricity consumption in the rich world
was stagnating because of growing energy efficiency and the
financial crisis. The result was a glut of power-generating
capacity that has slashed the revenues utilities earn from
wholesale power markets and hence deterred investment.
prime the pump: to encourage a business, industry, or activity to
develop by putting money or effort into it
slash: to greatly reduce an amount, price etc = cut
e.g. The workforce has been slashed by 50%.
kick in: If something kicks in, it begins to take effect.
e.g. As discounts kicked in, bookings for immediate travel rose by
falter: to become weaker and unable to continue in an effective
e.g. The economy is showing signs of faltering.
idle: not working or producing anything ≠ busy
e.g. The workers have been idle for the last six months.
smooth out: If you smooth out a problem or difficulty, you solve
it, especially by talking to the people concerned.
e.g. It’s O.K. I smoothed things out.
China accounted for more than 40 percent of capacity growth in global
renewable energy in 2016, which was a record year for worldwide clean
energy additions, according to a new study.
ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells【3】 and wind
turbines【4】 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.
The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based policy advisory
organization also known as the IEA, found that renewables accounted for
almost two-thirds of new power capacity last year. For the first time,
solar additions rose faster than any other fuel, including coal.
Last year, new solar capacity around the world grew by 50 percent,
reaching more than 74 gigawatts, with China accounting for almost half
of that expansion. China is also the world market leader in hydropower,
bioenergy for electricity and heat, and electric vehicles.
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.
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.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, estimates that renewable
capacity will grow by about 1,000 GW－or half the current global
capacity in coal power－by 2022.
“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
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.
“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar photovoltaics
(panels),” Birol said. “We expect that solar photovoltaic capacity
growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”
As the markets grow bigger, less electricity is being purchased directly
from the state-run utilities, meaning less profits for the traditional
【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.
In its report, the IEA labeled China as the world’s “undisputed
renewable growth leader”, driven by concerns about air pollution and
capacity targets that were outlined in the country’s 13th Five-Year
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
The IEA report said China represents half of global solar photovoltaic
demand, and Chinese companies manufacture around 60 percent of the
来源：THE NEXT WEB
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
back【10】. 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.
The IEA states that, due to the size of the market, policy developments
in China will have global implications for solar energy demand, supply,
【10】cut back (on sth)削减，减少
The report identified the growing cost of renewable subsidies and grid
integration in China as potential barriers to further growth, and noted
that China’s renewable energy policies are being modified in order to
address these challenges.
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.
China is moving away from its feed-in-tariff program to a quota system
with green certificates. The IEA states that these new policies,
together with power market reform, new transmission lines, and the
expansion of distributed generation, are expected to speed up the
deployment of solar energy.
【1二】creep in/into sth 初始发生（或影响）
Under an accelerated case -where government policy lifts barriers to
growth－IEA analysis finds that global renewable capacity growth led by
China could be boosted by another 30 percent, totaling an extra 1,150 GW
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
panels【15】. 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.
Globally, falling auction prices for wind and solar projects have
contributed to the rise in new renewable energy capacity.
Last month, the United Kingdom government held a wind farm auction at
which two companies agreed to build facilities for 57.50 pounds ($76)
per megawatt hour. The price is half what new wind farms were built for
just two years ago, and means off shore wind power will be cheaper than
nuclear energy in the UK for the first time.
【1四】prime the pump投资振兴
Researchers from the UK and China recently announced five new projects
to develop the”next generation” of technology in wind and wave power.
The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and the Engineering and
Physical Sciences Research Council have pledged 4 million pounds in
funding during the next three years for the projects, which will also
receive funding from the of China.
Second, green power is intermittent. The vagaries【18】 of wind
and sun—especially in countries without favourable weather—mean that
turbines and solar panels generate electricity only part of the time.
To keep power flowing, the system relies on conventional power plants,
such as coal, gas or nuclear, to kick in【19】 when renewables
falter【20】. But because they are idle for long periods, they
find it harder to attract private investors. So, to keep the lights
on, they require public funds.
Everyone is affected by a third factor: renewable energy has
negligible or zero marginal running costs【21】—because the wind
and the sun are free. In a market that prefers energy produced at the
lowest short-term cost, wind and solar take business from providers
that are more expensive to run, such as coal plants, depressing power
prices, and hence revenues for all.
The higher the penetration of renewables, the worse these problems
get—especially in saturated markets. In Europe, which was first to
feel the effects, utilities have suffered a “lost decade” of falling
returns, stranded assets and corporate disruption. Last year,
Germany’s two biggest electricity providers, E.ON and RWE, both split
in two. In renewable-rich parts of America power providers struggle to
find investors for new plants. Places with an abundance of wind, such
as China, are curtailing【22】 wind farms to keep coal plants in
The corollary【23】 is that the electricity system is being
re-regulated as investment goes chiefly to areas that benefit from
public support. Paradoxically, that means the more states support
renewables, the more they pay for conventional power plants, too,
using “capacity payments” to alleviate intermittency. In effect,
politicians rather than markets are once again deciding how to avoid
blackouts【24】. They often make mistakes: Germany’s support for
cheap, dirty lignite【25】 caused emissions to rise,
notwithstanding huge subsidies for renewables. Without a new approach
the renewables revolution will stall.
The good news is that new technology can help fix the problem (see
page 16). Digitalisation, smart meters【26】 and batteries are
enabling companies and households to smooth out【27】 their
demand—by doing some energy-intensive work at night, for example. This
helps to cope with intermittent supply. Small, modular power plants,
which are easy to flex up or down, are becoming more popular, as are
high-voltage grids that can move excess power around the network more
【27】smooth sth (back/down/out) 使平滑，使平整
The bigger task is to redesign power markets to reflect the new need
for flexible supply and demand. They should adjust prices more
frequently, to reflect the fluctuations of the weather. At times of
extreme scarcity, a high fixed price could kick in to prevent
blackouts. Markets should reward those willing to use less electricity
to balance the grid, just as they reward those who generate more of
it. Bills could be structured to be higher or lower depending how
strongly a customer wanted guaranteed power all the time—a bit like an
insurance policy【28】. In short, policymakers should be clear
they have a problem and that the cause is not renewable energy, but
the out-of-date system of electricity pricing. Then they should fix