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太阳能战略逼迫美国慎重应对

更新时间:2017-3-22 19:22:32 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Making Solar Big Enough to Matter
太阳能战略逼迫美国慎重应对

Solar energy has become big business. Over the past decade it has plummeted in cost, surged in volume, and, as booming industries do, benefited some investors and burned others. The International Energy Agency has predicted photovoltaic solar could provide up to 16 percent of the world’s electricity by midcentury — an enormous increase from the roughly 1 percent that solar generates today. But for solar to realize its potential, governments will have to grow up too. They’ll need to overhaul their solar policies to make them ruthlessly economically efficient.

太阳能已经成了大生意。过去10年里,太阳能成本下降,产量提升。和其他欣欣向荣的行业一样,太阳能让一些投资者获利,也让有些人亏损。国际能源署(International Energy Agency)预计,到本世纪中叶,光伏太阳能在全球发电量中的比例将在目前大约1%的基础上大幅增加,最高可达16%。但要让太阳能发挥潜力,政府也必须成长起来。它们须改革太阳能政策,让它们具备极高的经济效率。

The widespread view that solar power is a hopelessly subsidized business is quickly growing outdated. In some particularly sunny spots, such as certain parts of the Middle East, solar power now is beating fossil-fueled electricity on price without subsidies.

认为太阳能是一个无可救药的补贴行业的普遍观点,正在迅速变得过时。在阳光特别充足的一些地方,比如中东某些地区,太阳能没有补贴,也在价格上打败了用化石燃料发的电。

Even where — as in the United States — solar needs subsidies, it’s getting cheaper. American utilities now are signing 20-year agreements to buy solar power at, and in some cases below, 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Those prices, which reflect tax breaks, are in some instances low enough to compete with electricity from power plants that burn plentiful American natural gas. Solar will be all the more competitive if gas prices rise — something many predict — and as more governments impose prices on carbon dioxide emissions.

即便是在需要补贴的地方,比如美国,太阳能也正变得越来越便宜。美国公用事业正在签署期限20年的协议,以每度电5美分——有些情况下甚至不到5分——的价格购买太阳能电力。这些价格体现了税收优惠。在某些情况下,它们低得足以和发电厂用美国储量丰富的天然气发的电竞争。如果天然气像很多人预测的那样涨价,同时对二氧化碳排放定价的政府增加,太阳能将更有竞争力。

The market is concluding that solar makes sense. In part that’s because of technological advances that have made solar cells more efficient in converting sunlight into power. In part it’s the result of manufacturing scale, which has slashed the cost of solar-panel production. And, in places that tax greenhouse-gas emissions, it’s in part because solar produces carbon-free power.

市场断定,太阳能有意义。这部分是因为技术进步,部分是规模生产的结果。技术进步提高了太阳能电池把阳光转化成电的效率,规模生产则降低了太阳能组件的生产成本。在对温室气体排放征税的地方,太阳能发电不排放碳这一点也是原因之一。

But much more needs to be done. Ratcheting up solar to produce approximately 1 percent of global electricity has required a lot of technology and investment. Making solar big enough to matter environmentally would be an even more colossal undertaking. It would require plastering the ground and roofs with billions of solar panels. It would require significantly increasing energy storage, because solar panels crank out electricity only when the sun shines, which is why, today, solar often needs to be backed up by fossil fuels. And it would require adding more transmission lines, because often the places where the sun shines best aren’t where most people live.

但还有很多工作要做。把太阳能发电在全球发电量中的比例增加到大约1%动用了大量科技和投资。让太阳能的规模大到在环境方面具有重要意义这项任务则更加艰巨。它需要在地面和房顶上安装数以十亿计的太阳能组件;大幅增加能源储存,因为只有在有阳光时,太阳能组件才能发电,这也是目前太阳能通常需要化石燃料作为备用的原因;增加更多输电线,因为阳光最充足的地方往往不是人口最密集的地方。

The scale of this challenge makes economic efficiency crucial, as we argue in a report, “The New Solar System,” released on Tuesday. The policies that have goosed solar have been often unsustainable and sometimes contradictory. One glaring example: With one hand, the United States is trying to make solar cheaper, through tax breaks, and with the other hand it’s making solar more expensive, through tariffs it has imposed on solar products imported from China, the world’s largest maker and installer of solar panels.

正如我们在周二发布的报告《新太阳能系统》(The New Solar System)中所说的,这项挑战的规模意味着经济效率变得至关重要。促进太阳能发展的政策往往不可持续,有时甚至相互矛盾。一个明显的例子是:美国一方面试图通过税收减免让太阳能变得更便宜,另一方面却又对从中国进口的太阳能产品征收关税,导致太阳能变得更贵。中国生产和安装的太阳能组件数量居全球之首。

The tariffs are prompting Chinese solar manufacturers to set up factories not in the United States, but in low-cost countries that aren’t subject to the levies. And the Chinese government has responded with its own tariffs against American-made solar goods. Those tariffs have eroded the United States share in the one part of solar manufacturing — polysilicon, the raw material for solar cells — in which America once had a significant role.

关税促使中国太阳能制造商不在美国,而是在不被征收关税的低成本国家开设工厂。中国政府则以对美国制造的太阳能产品征收关税作为回应。这些关税侵蚀了美国在太阳能制造的其中一个领域——制造太阳能电池的原料多晶硅——的份额。在该领域,美国一度扮演着重要角色。

That solar is now involved in a trade war is a sign of how far it has come. The United States developed the first solar cells in the 1950s and put them into space in the 1960s. Japan and Germany began putting big numbers of solar panels on rooftops in the 1990s. But solar power didn’t really advance into a real industry until a decade ago, when China stepped in.

太阳能现已卷入贸易战,这也标志着这个行业所取得的成就。美国在50年代研制出了第一批太阳能电池,并于60年代把它们送入太空。90年代,日本和德国开始在屋顶上大量安装太阳能组件。但太阳能并未真正发展成一个行业,直到十年前中国加入其中。

In the mid-2000s, stimulated by hefty solar subsidies in Europe, a handful of entrepreneurs in China started producing inexpensive solar panels, much as had been done in China before with T-shirts and televisions. These entrepreneurs bought equipment from manufacturers in Europe and the United States, built big factories with government subsidies, and got down to business cranking out millions of solar panels for export.

2005年前后,在欧洲大力补贴太阳能的刺激下,中国少数企业家开始生产便宜的太阳能组件,这和中国以前生产T恤和电视的情形很像。这些企业家从欧洲和美国的生产商那里购买设备、用政府补贴修建大工厂并开始生产大量用于出口的太阳能组件。

Today, China utterly dominates global solar-panel manufacturing. Last year, according to the consulting firm IHS Markit, China accounted for 70 percent of global capacity for manufacturing crystalline-silicon solar panels, the most common type. The United States share was 1 percent.

如今,中国完全主导着全球的太阳能组件制造。据咨询公司IHS Markit称,去年,在全球制造晶体硅太阳能组件的产能中,中国占70%。美国的份额仅为1%。晶体硅太阳能组件是最常见的一种太阳能组件。

But now, China’s solar industry is changing in little-noticed ways that create both an imperative and an opportunity for the United States to up its game. The Chinese industry is innovating technologically — indeed, it’s starting to score world-record solar-cell efficiencies — contrary to a long-held myth that all China can do is manufacture others’ inventions cheaply. It’s expanding its manufacturing footprint across the globe. And it’s scrambling to import more efficient ways of financing solar power that have been pioneered in the West. The United States needs to take these shifts into account in defining an American solar strategy that minimizes the cost of solar power to the world while maximizing the long-term benefit to the American economy.

但现在,中国的太阳能行业正在以鲜少人注意的方式发生变化。这既让提升自己成了美国的当务之急,也给它带来了机会。尽管外界长期认为中国只能廉价地制造别人发明出来的东西,但中国太阳能行业正在进行技术创新。实际上,它已开始取得刷新世界纪录的太阳能电池效率,并扩大其遍布全球的制造网络。同时,中国太阳能行业正在争先恐后地引进西方开创的更有效的太阳能融资方式。美国须在制定自己的太阳能战略时,把这些转变考虑进去。美国的战略要把太阳能发电相对于全世界的成本降到最低,同时让它对美国经济的长远效益最大化。

A more-enlightened United States policy approach to solar would seek above all to continue slashing solar power’s costs — not to prop up types of American solar manufacturing that can’t compete globally. It would leverage, not aim to bury, China’s manufacturing superiority, with closer cooperation on solar research and development. And it would focus American solar subsidies more on research and development and deployment than on manufacturing. As solar manufacturing continues to automate, reducing China’s cheap-labor advantage, it is likely to make more sense in the United States, at least for certain sorts of solar products.

更开明的美国太阳能政策方针首先要争取继续降低太阳能的成本,不去支持那些无法参与全球竞争的美国太阳能制造活动。它会通过在太阳能研发上进行更密切的合作来善加利用中国的制造优势,而不是去消除其优势。它会把美国对太阳能的补贴更多地集中在研发和部署,而不是制造上。随着太阳能制造继续变得自动化,削弱中国的廉价劳动力优势,在美国制造太阳能产品可能会更划算,至少是对某些太阳能产品来说。

The United States needs to play to its comparative advantages in the solar sector. That requires a sober assessment of what China does well.

美国须发挥自己在太阳能行业的比较优势。这需要冷静地评估中国擅长什么。

Mr. Trump argued in his 2015 book, “Crippled America” (since retitled “Great Again”), that solar panels didn’t “make economic sense.” But he also wrote that, when solar energy “proves to be affordable and reliable in providing a substantial percent of our energy needs, then maybe it’ll be worth discussing.”

特朗普曾在其2015年的著作《跛脚的美国》(Crippled America,后改名为《恢复伟大荣光》[Great Again])中表示,太阳能组件“在经济上不划算”。但他也写道,当太阳能“证明能经济、可靠地满足我们比例可观的能源需求时,也许值得讨论”。

That time has arrived. A smarter solar policy — one with a more-nuanced view of China — is something the new president ought to like.

这个时候已经到了。更聪明的太阳能政策——有着更微妙的对华态度——应该会得到新总统的喜欢。

Solar isn’t just for the granola crowd anymore. It’s a global industry, and it’s poised to make a real environmental difference. Whether it delivers on that promise will depend on policy makers prodding it to become more economically efficient. That will require a shift both from those who have loved solar and from those who have laughed it off.

太阳能不再仅仅针对环保人士。它是一个全球性的行业,并对环境产生实质性的影响。它能否兑现这个承诺要靠政策制定者促使它提升经济效率。这需要喜欢太阳能和对它一笑了之的人都做出改变。

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