Businesses compete to battle California’s blackouts
企业竞相迎战加州大停电

照亮前路 Lit-书迷号 shumihao.com

DEPENDING ON WHOM you ask, California is a leader in clean energy or a cautionary tale. Power outages in August prompted stern critiques from Republicans. “In California”, Donald Trump tweeted, “Democrats have intentionally implemented rolling blackouts—forcing Americans in the dark.” In addition to provoking outrage and derision, however, the episode is also likely to inspire investment.
加州到底是清洁能源的引领者还是反面教材,答案取决于你问的是谁。8月的大停电引来了共和党人的尖锐批评。特朗普在推特上写道:“在加州,民主党人故意实施轮流停电,迫使美国人陷入黑暗。”然而,这一事件除了激起愤怒和嘲弄,也很可能催生投资。

The Golden State has long been America’s main testing ground for green companies. Californians buy half of all electric cars sold in America. Theirs is the country’s largest solar market. As California deals with heat waves, fires and a goal of carbon-free electricity by 2045, the need for a reliable grid is becoming ever more obvious. For years firms competed to generate clean power in California. Now a growing number are vying to store and manage it, too.
长期以来“黄金州”都是美国绿色企业的主要试验场。全美售出的电动汽车有一半是被加州人买走的。这里也是美国最大的太阳能市场。随着加州应对热浪、火灾以及要实现到2045年无碳发电的目标,对电网可靠性的需求日益突显。多年来,企业争相在加州生产清洁电力。现在,越来越多的公司又围绕电力储存和管理展开竞争。

August’s blackouts have many causes, including poor planning, an unexpected lack of capacity and sweltering heat in not just California but nearby states from which it sometimes imports power. Long before the outages, however, electricity operators were anxious about capacity. California’s solar panels become less useful in the evening, when demand peaks. In November state regulators mandated that utilities procure an additional 3.3 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, including giant batteries that charge when energy is abundant and can sell electricity back to the grid.
八月停电的原因很多,包括计划不周、出人意料的装机容量不足,以及酷暑——不仅仅是加州,周边几个有时为加州供电的州也遭遇了高温。不过,在此次停电发生前很久,电力运营商就已经在为容量问题忧心忡忡。加州的太阳能面板在傍晚用电高峰时段用处不大。去年11月,州监管机构要求电力公司额外添置3.3吉瓦容量,其中包括巨型蓄电池,它们可在电力充足时充电,稍后再把电力卖回给电网。

Too few such projects have come online to cope with the surge in demand for air-conditioning in the scorching summer. But more are sprouting across the state. On August 19th LS Power, an electricity firm backed by private equity, unveiled a 250-megawatt (MW) storage project in San Diego, the largest of its kind in America. In July the county of Monterey said Vistra Energy, a Texan power company, could build as much as 1.2GW of storage.
已经投入运营的此类项目太少,没能满足今年炎夏飙升的空调用电需求。但越来越多项目正在加州各地涌现。8月19日,获私募基金投资的电力公司LS Power在圣地亚哥建成了250兆瓦的储能系统,在全美此类项目中规模最大。蒙特利县在7月表示,德州电力公司Vistra Energy可能将建设高达1.2吉瓦的储能容量。

The rooftop solar industry stands to benefit from a new Californian mandate that requires new homes to install panels on their roofs from this year. Sunrun, the market leader, is increasingly pairing such residential installations with batteries. In July, for instance, the company said it had won contracts with energy suppliers in the Bay Area to install 13MW of residential solar and batteries. These could supply power to residents in a blackout or feed power into the grid to help meet peak demand. Sunrun is so confident in its future that it has bid $3.2bn for Vivint Solar, its main rival.
加州政府规定从今年起新建房屋必须在屋顶安装太阳能面板,这势必令屋顶太阳能产业受益。这个市场的领头羊Sunrun在安装这类住宅太阳能系统时已开始越来越多地搭配蓄电池。例如,该公司在7月表示已经赢得了旧金山湾区能源供应商的合同,将安装13兆瓦的住宅太阳能系统和电池。这些设备可以在停电时为居民供电,也可以向电网输出电力,帮助满足高峰期需求。Sunrun对自己的未来信心十足,已经出价32亿美元收购主要竞争对手Vivint Solar。

Another way to stave off outages is to curb demand. Enel, a European power company, has contracts with local utilities to work with large commercial and industrial clients. When demand rises, Enel pays customers to reduce energy consumption, easing demand on the grid. A company called OhmConnect offers something similar for homeowners.
要避免停电,另一种方法就是抑制需求。意大利国家电力公司(Enel)这家来自欧洲的电力公司与加州本地的公用事业公司签订合同,与大型工商业客户协调用电水平。当用电需求上升时,Enel会向客户付费换取它们减少耗电,从而缓解电网的压力。一家名为OhmConnect的公司针对房主提供类似的协调方案。

Even as such offerings scale up, the need for reliability means that fossil fuels will not disappear just yet. On September 1st California’s regulators voted to delay the retirement of four natural-gas plants in light of the outages. The state remains intent on decarbonising its power system over the next 25 years. But progress may not move in a straight line. ■
在这些措施不断扩大规模的同时,要保证持续可靠的供电意味着化石燃料还不会那么快退出舞台。9月1日,在此次停电事故带来新的权衡后,加州监管机构投票决定推迟关停四家天然气电厂。加州仍然决心在25年内实现电力系统脱碳。但这个过程恐怕不会一帆风顺。