After many false starts, hydrogen power might now be about to bear fruit
在多次起步失误之后,氢能或许即将结出硕果

【双语】再看一眼玩具盒 Another look in the toy box-书迷号 shumihao.com

It’s a gas

一种燃气

The economics, then, seem to be pointing in the right direction for hydrogen to become, if not dominant, then at least an important part of the mix. The Hydrogen Council, a lobby group based in Brussels, thinks the gas could be satisfying 18% of the world’s energy demand by 2050. The share prices of firms that make fuel cells, electrolysis equipment and the like have consequently been marching upward.

因此,经济学似乎支撑了氢的前景——即使不成为主导,它也至少会成为重要的组成部分。总部位于布鲁塞尔的游说组织氢能委员会(Hydrogen Council)认为,到2050年,氢气可以满足世界18%的能源需求。因此,制造燃料电池和电解设备等产品的公司的股价一直在上涨。

Many of the assumptions made in various forecasts rely, however, on governments providing prodigious subsidies to develop the technology. BNEF says subsidies of around $150bn over the next ten years might be needed to make hydrogen competitive. In reality, the IEA reckons that total government spending on hydrogen in 2018 was just $724m.

但是,各种预测中做出的许多假设都依赖于政府提供巨大补贴来开发这项技术。BNEF表示,未来10年可能需要约1500亿美元的补贴以提高氢的竞争力。实际上,据IEA估计,2018年政府在氢能方面的总支出仅为7.24亿美元。

Official interest is certainly picking up, though. On June 10th Germany announced a €7bn subsidy programme aimed at making it the “world leader” in the technology. A leaked draft of the European Union’s post-covid stimulus plan contains an ambition to install 40GW of green hydrogen capacity by 2030. China hopes to see 1m fuel-cell-powered vehicles on the roads by the same year. Japan, long a fan of hydrogen, wants its price to fall by 90% by 2050. As to retooling vast swathes of the global energy system to accommodate this change, Dr Bhavnagri calculates that replacing natural gas with hydrogen would mean tripling or quadrupling the world’s gas-storage infrastructure, at a cost of perhaps $600bn.

不过,官方的兴趣肯定在增加。6月10日,德国宣布了一项70亿欧元的补贴计划,旨在使其成为该技术的“世界领导者”。欧盟泄露的一份新冠后刺激计划草案里有宏伟的目标:到2030年安装40吉瓦绿色氢能。中国希望到同一年道路上会有100万辆燃料电池驱动的车辆。长期以来一直拥护氢能的日本希望其价格到2050年下降90%。要适应这一变化将需要大规模改造全球能源系统,巴夫纳格里博士计算指出,用氢替代天然气将意味着世界氢气存储设施要增长三到四倍,耗资约6000亿美元。

In the end, hydrogen’s impact will be limited by the basic fact that it is, ultimately, just electricity in disguise. It remains an inescapably inefficient option. For some applications, though, its advantages—its energy density, its ability to burn and its compatibility with existing infrastructure—could make it an attractive fit despite that drawback. To paraphrase another famous advert, then, the hope is that hydrogen might prove to be the Heineken of clean energy: able to refresh the parts of an economy that electrification cannot reach. ■

到头来,氢的影响将受到一个基本事实的限制——氢说到底只是变相的电。它仍然无可避免地是一个低效的选择。但是,对于某些应用而言,尽管有此缺点,但它的优点——能量密度、燃烧能力以及与现有基础设施的兼容性——使其仍然很有吸引力。因此,套用另一句著名的广告词来说,人们希望氢会成为清洁能源中的喜力啤酒:给电气化无法触及的经济部分带来清爽的感觉。