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现代能源危机来势汹汹,没有国家可以幸免

现代能源危机来势汹汹,没有国家可以幸免

Sophie Mellor 2021年10月02日
随着能源转型的影响波及到社会的每个角落,英国的惨痛经历为世界各国敲响了警钟。

“电力末日之战”、“天然气大动乱”、“能源浩劫”……怎么称呼都行。最近全球经历的这场危机,让中国的电力短缺,显得小巫见大巫。

这是一种反乌托邦式的场景:当经济体向负担得起、清洁的可再生能源转型时,要想继续前进,就不得不转向昂贵的天然气。

随着能源转型的影响波及到社会的每个角落,这一惨痛经历为世界各国敲响警钟,也说明了全球各国在向绿色能源转型的过程中,可能遇到哪些问题。

中国已经发出警告,随着煤炭价格飙升、影响化肥供应,粮食保障可能受到影响。在欧盟,寒冬将至,天然气储量不高,导致电费猛涨,电力危机对消费者的影响已经在政治上引起了反响。

但伤得最重的是英国。

多米诺骨牌倒下

去年的寒潮引发多米诺效应,造成英国如今一片哀鸿遍野。2020年到2021年的寒冬过后,英国和欧洲大部分地区的能源储备减少,全球开始从新冠疫情中获得喘息。欧洲和亚洲从沉睡中苏醒,开始争夺美国、挪威和俄罗斯有限的天然气供应,而后者都在争相补充本国的天然气储备。

不出所料,天然气价格应声上涨,现货市场价格自年初以来狂涨400%,而电价暴涨250%。

随着天然气成本高企,开始蚕食利润,负担不起飙升成本的公司纷纷倒闭。

在化肥行业,美国公司CF Industries Holdings在英国拥有的两家大型工厂暂时关闭,挪威企业雅苒(Yara)也削减了在欧洲多地的生产,导致二氧化碳短缺,二氧化碳是化肥生产的副产品,能够用于屠宰前的动物致晕,还可以制成干冰,冷却储存和运输中的食品。这又接着造成英国超市供应的鸡肉和火腿、汽水和冰淇淋面临储运风险。比如,由于干冰短缺,在线生鲜电商Ocado Group停止向英国客户供应冷冻食品。

英国家禽协会(British Poultry Council)的首席执行官理查德·格里菲思承认:“[我们]正处于一个非常危险的境地。”

许多能源行业人士会急着粉饰太平,这段高价时期将会过去,一切很快恢复正常。他们避免使用“能源危机”这样灾难性的词语,而是提出价格上涨揭开了市场化的英国能源系统的缺陷,英国能源系统一直试图摆脱对天然气的严重依赖,却徒劳无果。

但有充分的理由相信,这场能源危机不是昙花一现。

Victory Hill Capital Group的首席执行官安东尼·卡塔查纳斯称:“随着可再生资源日益普及,这一现象正在世界各地发生,而这正是我们想要的。我们需要继续沿着这条道路走下去。”该公司是一家资产管理公司,持有天然气发电厂的投资组合,其中的发电厂在用电高峰时启动,被称为收费高昂的调峰发电厂。

“蜿蜒崎岖”的转型之路

可再生能源基金管理公司Glennmont Partners的负责人约斯特·伯格斯马指出,能源转型不会一帆风顺,而是一条“蜿蜒崎岖”的转型之路。

他解释说:“大方向不会改变,总会有更多的可再生能源,但人们必须意识到达到高点的风险和波动性问题。”

过去,英国依靠自有的北海天然气储备自给自足,几乎不需要用到欧洲其他国家的储气量。但随着生产放缓,英国提高了可再生能源产出,保持能源独立。可再生能源生产繁荣,特别是北海的离岸风力发电,意味着英国在减少煤炭燃烧方面取得了快速进展,2021年夏季创纪录地出现了两个“零煤”月。

问题在于,随着英国煤电厂封存歇业,在常用资源短缺时,英国变得更加依赖国际天然气现货市场,将其视为唯一的“救命稻草”。

天然气价格较低时,风力发电已经占到英国能源构成的25%,2020年平均维持该水平,似乎没有人注意到这个问题。但当北海的风力骤减,就像今年夏天一样,风电下降至英国能源构成的7%时,国际天然气价格飙升。保障、负担能力和排放突然变得非常重要。

在业内一些人看来,政府面对天然气价格飙升所表现出的惊讶和震惊有点像在做戏,他们认为领导者缺乏计划,乐于接受低价,但不愿意为不可避免的抑价计划买单。

一家要求匿名的能源金融咨询公司负责人表示:“这一切令人震惊。波动性很强的价格是不稳定的。价格上下波动。如果各国真的想要价格稳定,为什么去鼓励最不稳定的价格策略?”

鉴于英国逐步淘汰煤(和核能),昂贵的天然气依然是不可或缺的能源。

投资天然气调峰发电厂的资产管理公司Victory Hill的卡塔查纳斯称:“完全在意料之中。这是能源结构的自然结果。随着引入燃气发电,平衡电网,我们现在的心情有点雀跃。”

对卡塔查纳斯来说,能源“危机”实际上是一个“预期”问题——或者说政府缺乏预期。

谁来买单?

不论市场是按预期运行还是价格飙升是可预测的,英国政府正在挖空心思地算计首当其冲的是谁。随着批发价格攀升,消费者是否应该支付更高的电费?

自8月初以来,至少有四家近年来加入配电市场的能源公司破产,在全球天然气批发价格飙升的严峻形势下无以为继。(《财富》杂志驻伦敦通讯社的电力供应商Bubble专注于可再生能源,也有破产传闻。)

Glennmont Partners的伯格斯马分析称:“消费价格居高不下,确实让人同情,但同时必须维持某种平衡。你不能强迫供应商公司[吃下]更高的投入成本。教训是,这是消费者、供应商和政府之间的共同责任。”

不幸的是,这场危机最有可能影响到低收入家庭。路透社的数据显示,2019年和2020年,收入最低的一成家庭在天然气和电力方面的支出占总支出的比例几乎是收入最高的一成家庭的三倍。

英国并不是唯一面临能源价格飙升的国家。西班牙的首相佩德罗·桑切斯宣布临时减税,削减能源公司的高额利润,拯救国内消费者。意大利政府已经投入12亿欧元抑制家用能源价格的上涨,意大利的总理马里奥·德拉吉承诺在未来几个月再投入30亿欧元帮助消费者。法国已经宣布为近600万低收入家庭提供100欧元的补贴。

亟需灵活的能源配置

英国就是一个极端的例子,在过去十年,可再生能源迅速涌入,能源系统的高峰需求仍然集中在天然气市场。但能源是一个全球性问题,全球各国在开始能源转型时遭到迎头痛击:系统缺乏充分的备用方案,面对能源不足时,毫无招架之力。

Glennmont Partners的伯格斯马认为“[这个问题]并非仅出现在欧洲”,他指出,美国的得克萨斯州最近发生了一场危机,严重的冬季风暴袭击了防冻保温措施不到位的天然气基础设施,风力发电机组被冻住。得克萨斯州的可再生能源发电量在美国各州中位居首位。

随着全球逐渐淘汰核能和化石燃料,对灵活能源的需求将不断增加,以便应对间歇性可再生能源高峰和低谷。灵活能源不一定总是清洁能源。

卡塔查纳斯强调:“这一点在澳大利亚非常明显。”虽然可再生能源在澳大利亚占有一席之地,但煤炭仍然占到其能源结构的70%。卡塔查纳斯解释称,这“是由于电网并没有完全依赖可再生能源发电,而是转向煤炭,虽然排放更多、成本更高、效率低下。”

目前,供电依然有保障。能源研究公司Rystad Energy的天然气和电力市场负责人卡洛斯·托雷斯·迪亚兹指出:“我认为不会出现停电,因为有足够的供电来源,就是有点贵。”

但只要天然气依然“反复无常”,飙升的天然气价格和短缺问题就仍将继续,并且可能加剧。(财富中文网)

译者:传神

“电力末日之战”、“天然气大动乱”、“能源浩劫”……怎么称呼都行。最近全球经历的这场危机,让中国的电力短缺,显得小巫见大巫。

这是一种反乌托邦式的场景:当经济体向负担得起、清洁的可再生能源转型时,要想继续前进,就不得不转向昂贵的天然气。

随着能源转型的影响波及到社会的每个角落,这一惨痛经历为世界各国敲响警钟,也说明了全球各国在向绿色能源转型的过程中,可能遇到哪些问题。

中国已经发出警告,随着煤炭价格飙升、影响化肥供应,粮食保障可能受到影响。在欧盟,寒冬将至,天然气储量不高,导致电费猛涨,电力危机对消费者的影响已经在政治上引起了反响。

但伤得最重的是英国。

多米诺骨牌倒下

去年的寒潮引发多米诺效应,造成英国如今一片哀鸿遍野。2020年到2021年的寒冬过后,英国和欧洲大部分地区的能源储备减少,全球开始从新冠疫情中获得喘息。欧洲和亚洲从沉睡中苏醒,开始争夺美国、挪威和俄罗斯有限的天然气供应,而后者都在争相补充本国的天然气储备。

不出所料,天然气价格应声上涨,现货市场价格自年初以来狂涨400%,而电价暴涨250%。

随着天然气成本高企,开始蚕食利润,负担不起飙升成本的公司纷纷倒闭。

在化肥行业,美国公司CF Industries Holdings在英国拥有的两家大型工厂暂时关闭,挪威企业雅苒(Yara)也削减了在欧洲多地的生产,导致二氧化碳短缺,二氧化碳是化肥生产的副产品,能够用于屠宰前的动物致晕,还可以制成干冰,冷却储存和运输中的食品。这又接着造成英国超市供应的鸡肉和火腿、汽水和冰淇淋面临储运风险。比如,由于干冰短缺,在线生鲜电商Ocado Group停止向英国客户供应冷冻食品。

英国家禽协会(British Poultry Council)的首席执行官理查德·格里菲思承认:“[我们]正处于一个非常危险的境地。”

许多能源行业人士会急着粉饰太平,这段高价时期将会过去,一切很快恢复正常。他们避免使用“能源危机”这样灾难性的词语,而是提出价格上涨揭开了市场化的英国能源系统的缺陷,英国能源系统一直试图摆脱对天然气的严重依赖,却徒劳无果。

但有充分的理由相信,这场能源危机不是昙花一现。

Victory Hill Capital Group的首席执行官安东尼·卡塔查纳斯称:“随着可再生资源日益普及,这一现象正在世界各地发生,而这正是我们想要的。我们需要继续沿着这条道路走下去。”该公司是一家资产管理公司,持有天然气发电厂的投资组合,其中的发电厂在用电高峰时启动,被称为收费高昂的调峰发电厂。

“蜿蜒崎岖”的转型之路

可再生能源基金管理公司Glennmont Partners的负责人约斯特·伯格斯马指出,能源转型不会一帆风顺,而是一条“蜿蜒崎岖”的转型之路。

他解释说:“大方向不会改变,总会有更多的可再生能源,但人们必须意识到达到高点的风险和波动性问题。”

过去,英国依靠自有的北海天然气储备自给自足,几乎不需要用到欧洲其他国家的储气量。但随着生产放缓,英国提高了可再生能源产出,保持能源独立。可再生能源生产繁荣,特别是北海的离岸风力发电,意味着英国在减少煤炭燃烧方面取得了快速进展,2021年夏季创纪录地出现了两个“零煤”月。

问题在于,随着英国煤电厂封存歇业,在常用资源短缺时,英国变得更加依赖国际天然气现货市场,将其视为唯一的“救命稻草”。

天然气价格较低时,风力发电已经占到英国能源构成的25%,2020年平均维持该水平,似乎没有人注意到这个问题。但当北海的风力骤减,就像今年夏天一样,风电下降至英国能源构成的7%时,国际天然气价格飙升。保障、负担能力和排放突然变得非常重要。

在业内一些人看来,政府面对天然气价格飙升所表现出的惊讶和震惊有点像在做戏,他们认为领导者缺乏计划,乐于接受低价,但不愿意为不可避免的抑价计划买单。

一家要求匿名的能源金融咨询公司负责人表示:“这一切令人震惊。波动性很强的价格是不稳定的。价格上下波动。如果各国真的想要价格稳定,为什么去鼓励最不稳定的价格策略?”

鉴于英国逐步淘汰煤(和核能),昂贵的天然气依然是不可或缺的能源。

投资天然气调峰发电厂的资产管理公司Victory Hill的卡塔查纳斯称:“完全在意料之中。这是能源结构的自然结果。随着引入燃气发电,平衡电网,我们现在的心情有点雀跃。”

对卡塔查纳斯来说,能源“危机”实际上是一个“预期”问题——或者说政府缺乏预期。

谁来买单?

不论市场是按预期运行还是价格飙升是可预测的,英国政府正在挖空心思地算计首当其冲的是谁。随着批发价格攀升,消费者是否应该支付更高的电费?

自8月初以来,至少有四家近年来加入配电市场的能源公司破产,在全球天然气批发价格飙升的严峻形势下无以为继。(《财富》杂志驻伦敦通讯社的电力供应商Bubble专注于可再生能源,也有破产传闻。)

Glennmont Partners的伯格斯马分析称:“消费价格居高不下,确实让人同情,但同时必须维持某种平衡。你不能强迫供应商公司[吃下]更高的投入成本。教训是,这是消费者、供应商和政府之间的共同责任。”

不幸的是,这场危机最有可能影响到低收入家庭。路透社的数据显示,2019年和2020年,收入最低的一成家庭在天然气和电力方面的支出占总支出的比例几乎是收入最高的一成家庭的三倍。

英国并不是唯一面临能源价格飙升的国家。西班牙的首相佩德罗·桑切斯宣布临时减税,削减能源公司的高额利润,拯救国内消费者。意大利政府已经投入12亿欧元抑制家用能源价格的上涨,意大利的总理马里奥·德拉吉承诺在未来几个月再投入30亿欧元帮助消费者。法国已经宣布为近600万低收入家庭提供100欧元的补贴。

亟需灵活的能源配置

英国就是一个极端的例子,在过去十年,可再生能源迅速涌入,能源系统的高峰需求仍然集中在天然气市场。但能源是一个全球性问题,全球各国在开始能源转型时遭到迎头痛击:系统缺乏充分的备用方案,面对能源不足时,毫无招架之力。

Glennmont Partners的伯格斯马认为“[这个问题]并非仅出现在欧洲”,他指出,美国的得克萨斯州最近发生了一场危机,严重的冬季风暴袭击了防冻保温措施不到位的天然气基础设施,风力发电机组被冻住。得克萨斯州的可再生能源发电量在美国各州中位居首位。

随着全球逐渐淘汰核能和化石燃料,对灵活能源的需求将不断增加,以便应对间歇性可再生能源高峰和低谷。灵活能源不一定总是清洁能源。

卡塔查纳斯强调:“这一点在澳大利亚非常明显。”虽然可再生能源在澳大利亚占有一席之地,但煤炭仍然占到其能源结构的70%。卡塔查纳斯解释称,这“是由于电网并没有完全依赖可再生能源发电,而是转向煤炭,虽然排放更多、成本更高、效率低下。”

目前,供电依然有保障。能源研究公司Rystad Energy的天然气和电力市场负责人卡洛斯·托雷斯·迪亚兹指出:“我认为不会出现停电,因为有足够的供电来源,就是有点贵。”

但只要天然气依然“反复无常”,飙升的天然气价格和短缺问题就仍将继续,并且可能加剧。(财富中文网)

译者:传神

Megawattageddon. Gasapocalypse. Energastrophe.

Call it what you will, the energy market news coming out of the U.K. paints a dystopian image of what happens when an economy, making the righteous transition to affordable, clean, renewable power, has to turn to pricey gas to keep moving forward.

As the effects of the energy transition ripples across every corner of society, Britain's experience is a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, an example of what can—and very likely will—go wrong as countries around the globe stumble on their transition to green energy.

China has already warned food security could be impacted as skyrocketing coal prices affect fertilizer supplies. In the EU, the consumer impact of the power crunch has already had political reverberations as electricity bills soar in the face of low gas reserves ahead of the winter.

But it's the U.K. where the pain hurts the most.

How the dominoes fell

The domino effect that led to the U.K.'s current pain started with a cold spell. After the chilly winter of 2020 to 2021 saw the U.K. and much of Europe draw down its energy reserves, the world began to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming out of their slumber, Europe and Asia began to compete for the limited gas supplies of the U.S., Norway, and Russia—all of whom were refilling their own reserves.

Not surprisingly, gas prices rose, with prices on the spot market climbing by 400% since the start of the year, while electricity prices have jumped 250%.

As gas costs started to eat into profits, firms that couldn't afford this spike began shutting down.

In the fertilizer industry, two large U.K. factories owned by U.S. firm CF Industries Holdings have temporarily closed up shop, and Norwegian firm Yara has also cut production at a number of its European sites. That in turn has led to a shortage in carbon dioxide, a by-product from fertilizer production that is used to stun animals before slaughter, and a shortage of dry ice to cool foods in storage and transit. And that in turn has put the U.K. supermarket supplies of chicken and ham, fizzy drinks and ice cream in jeopardy. In just one example, online grocer Ocado Group stopped supplying frozen food to U.K. customers because of the dry ice shortage.

"[We] are on a knife-edge situation," said British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths.

Many in the energy industry are quick to say that this period of high prices will pass and things will soon return to normal. They avoid using apocalyptic terms like “energy crisis" and instead suggest that the price hikes reveal the flaws of the market-based U.K. energy system that has found itself heavily dependent on the same gas that it has been attempting to wean itself off of.

But there are plenty of reasons to believe that this energy crunch is not a one-time show.

“This phenomenon is happening around the world as we continue to increase the penetration of renewables, which is what we want. And we need to continue going down that path," said Anthony Catachanas, CEO of Victory Hill Capital Group, an asset manager that owns a portfolio of gas plants that are turned on at times of peak electricity use—known as peaker plants—for very high prices.

A “zigzag line”

The energy transition won’t be a smooth one but “a zigzag line," said Joost Bergsma, head of renewable energy fund manager Glennmont Partners.

"The direction will not change, there will always be more renewables on the system, but people have to be aware of the risks and the volatility issues of getting to that higher point,” he said.

In the past, the U.K. relied on its own North Sea gas reserves to provide energy at a moment's notice, with little of the need for gas storage that the rest of Europe has. But as its production slowed, the country ramped up its renewable output to maintain its energy independence. This boom in renewables—especially from offshore wind in the North Sea—has meant that the U.K. has made fast progress in cutting coal combustion, with a record-breaking two coal-free months recorded in the summer of 2021.

The problem is that as the U.K. mothballed coal plants, the country became more dependent on the international gas spot market as its sole flexible source of power generation to fill in when its normal sources fell short.

When gas prices were low and the wind was generating a solid 25% of the U.K.’s energy make up, which it did on average across 2020, no one seemed to notice this issue. But as soon as North Sea winds slowed as they did this summer—dropping production to only 7% of the country’s energy makeup—international gas prices soared. And security, affordability and emissions all suddenly became very important.

The surprise and shock shown by governments in the face of these price spikes is a bit disingenuous to the eye of some in the industry, who see instead a lack a planning by leaders who are happy to accept low prices when they're offered but unwilling to pay for the plans to mitigate the spikes that inevitably follow.

“Shocker. Volatile prices are volatile. They go up and down,” said the head of an energy financial advisory firm who asked to remain anonymous. He asked, if countries really wanted stable prices, "then why do you encourage the most volatile price determination?”

Taking into account the phase-out of coal (and nuclear power) in the U.K., volatile gas, however expensive, is simply still necessary.

"This is perfectly expected. This is the natural consequence to what the energy mix is,” said Catachanas of Victory Hill, the asset manager that owns gas peaker plants. "We have smiles on our faces at the moment," he noted, as gas-fired power generation is being brought in to balance the grid.

For Catachanas, the energy "crisis" is really a matter of "anticipation"—or the government's lack thereof.

Who pays?

Regardless of whether the market is working as intended or the spikes are predictable, the U.K. government is scrambling to figure out who will bear the brunt of the cost. Should consumers pay higher electricity bills as wholesale prices climb?

At least four energy companies, who joined the electricity distribution market in recent years have gone bust since the beginning of August, unable to keep up with the global spike in wholesale gas prices. (Fortune’s London-based correspondent's own renewable energy-focused electricity provider Bulb is also rumored to be going under.)

“I do have sympathy for consumer prices, but at the same time there has to be some balance. You can't force supplier companies [to eat] higher input costs," said Bergsma of Glennmont Partners. "The lesson is, it is a shared responsibility between the consumer, supplier, and the government.”

Unfortunately, this is most likely to impact poorer income households. According to Reuters data, in 2019 and 2020, the households in the lowest income decile spent almost three times as much on gas and electricity as a proportion of their total spending, compared to those in the highest decile.

And U.K. consumers are not the only ones facing energy price spikes. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced a temporary tax cut and a reduction in extraordinary profits made by energy companies to help consumers in the country. The Italian government has spent 1.2 billion to cut the increase in energy prices for households, with its Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledging another 3 billion to help consumers in the coming months. France has already announced a 100 subsidy for almost 6 million low-income households.

The need for flexibility

The U.K. is an extreme example. It has seen a rapid influx of renewables over the past decade while its energy system'a peak needs are still centered on the gas market. But this is a global issue, one with a lesson for countries around the globe as they begin the energy transition: one failure can collapse a system without sufficient backups.

“[This problem] is not entirely isolated to Europe,” says Bergsma of Glennmont Partners, pointing to a recent crisis in Texas where a severe winter storm battered inadequately insulated natural gas infrastructure and froze wind turbines. Texas has the largest renewable power generation of any U.S. state.

As the world moves away from nuclear energy and fossil fuels, there will be growing demand for flexible sources of power that are be able to respond to the peaks and troughs of intermittent renewable energy. And those will not always be clean.

“We’ve seen it in Australia very prominently,” said Catachanas. While renewables have a place in Australia, coal still provides 70% of its energy mix. This "comes as a result of renewable power generation not being able to be relied on sufficiently by the grid, so they turn to coal, which is more emmisive, more costly, and less efficient," Catachanas said.

For now, security of supply is still safe. "I don’t see a reason for blackouts, because there are more than enough sources of electricity supply. It’s just going to be expensive,” says Carlos Torres Diaz, head of gas and power markets at energy research firm Rystad Energy.

But as long as natural gas continues to stay the extremely volatile commodity it is, soaring gas prices and shortages will continue—and likely grow.

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