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商业 - 科技

电池和其他能源储存技术的突破或改变全球能源格局

Scott Nyquist 2015年10月21日

若要与化石能源竞争,太阳能和风能就需要保持全天24小时的供应。电池和其他能源储存技术的突破,可能从根本上改变全球的能源格局。

    在20世纪60年代的经典电影《毕业生》中,对于年轻的达斯汀·霍夫曼的未来,一位男子吼出这样一个建议:“我只想跟你说一个词,就一个词。塑料业。”对现在的可再生能源领域而言,其未来也可以总结为一个词:储存。

    可再生能源正在迅速发展。即使是我在石油和天然气行业的朋友也承认,未来的能源结构会与现在大不相同,可再生能源将占据大得多的份额。真正的问题是,这个未来距离现在究竟有多近(或多远)。

    从现有的技术来推断,化石能源产业还将繁荣相当长的时间。在2015年《世界能源展望》中,埃克森石油公司预计,太阳能产业的规模将增长20倍,风能将增长5倍——不过到2040年,所有可再生能源在全球能源供应的占比依旧不到10%。在预测2035年的能源前景时,英国石油公司也给出了类似的结论。

    原因在于,人们希望按下开关就看到灯亮起来。而可再生能源(除了辉煌时代已过的水电)却无法实现这一点,它们总是需要另一种备用能源,即化石能源或核能。以德国为例,经济技术部长菲利普·勒斯勒尔表示,尽管他们大力投资了可再生能源,但“对常规发电站的需求在未来几乎不会减少”。“当无风或是多云的时候,常规发电站需要顶替上来,以满足绝大部分能耗,保证能源供应的稳定……在目前来看,只有灵活的常规发电站能做到这一点。”

    可再生能源想要发展到非常大的规模,按照咨询专家的话来说,需要做一件能“改变全局的事”。如果能够以经济可行的成本储存太阳能和风能,并按需供应,就能从根本上改变全球的能源格局。

    这一理念既不新颖,也不是异想天开。利用抽水蓄能系统来进行水力发电已有几十年历史,现在的手机电池也是一种储能的方式。这项技术只是还没有应用到风能或太阳能上。这个局面终将发生改变。著名能源咨询公司IHS预计,能源储存量将会从2013年的3亿多瓦发展到2017年的60亿瓦,再到2022年的400亿瓦。麦肯锡公司在2013年估计,到2025年时,全球能源储存带来的经济影响至少会达到每年900亿美元,如果它能迅速应用于汽车的话,其经济影响可能更大(最高达到6350亿美元)。相对于全球能源市场的6万亿来说,这只是沧海一粟,但它在不断壮大。

    实际上,就如我们过去十年中在页岩气和太阳能领域看到的一样,数十年的努力加上数十项创新成果,让技术突破了临界点,其使用率随之飞速提高。我认为储存技术也是一样。我们已经见证过许多先例。

    尤其要提到的是,目前已经有大量试验正在进行,从支持153兆瓦风电场的系统,到控制曼哈顿市中心一座摩天大楼温度和照明的系统,再到为阿拉斯加独立设施提供后备支持的系统。不是所有这些系统都能发挥作用,或是效果很好,或是足够便宜到大规模应用。不过任何创新都是这样,重要的是人们开始尝试把各种想法付诸现实。其中总有一部分能够成功。

    同样值得指出的是,现有的储存技术也变得更便宜了。2007年,大容量锂离子电池的储存价格约为每千瓦时900美元,现在已经降到了380美元,到2020年可能会降至200美元。还有其他类型的电池可能会超越,或者至少完善锂离子电池,例如液态金属电池、锂空气电池、锂硫电池、钠离子电池、纳米超级电容器,以及能源缓存技术。

    最后,关于可再生能源改善存储技术这一点,公共事业公司并不反对,实际上,他们正在进行相关投资。这很重要,因为我们需要电网,而能源储存实际上可以强化电网的能力。目前,公共事业公司为了满足偶尔的用电高峰,必须设计出额外负荷,而美国人通常使用的电量还不到电网全部承载力的30%。如果这些公司能在用户需求低的时候把能源存储起来,到高峰期再释放这些能源,就能节省大量资金,同时还能消除频率波动,提供电压支持。再次引用咨询专家常说的话,这叫双赢。

    我不是一个盲目乐观的人。我知道想要让能源储存成为主流,还有大量障碍需要克服。正如落基山研究所冷静的环保学家最近所言,目前没有哪种能源储存方式“创造的收益能接近所需的成本”。麦肯锡全球研究所也指出,许多重要问题有待解决。

    不过整体情况就是这样。全球有许多聪明人在研究能源储存。越来越多的人开始为他们研究提供资金支持。成本正在降低。科技正在飞速发展。人们对这项技术有很大需求。用一个词来概括所有这些趋势指向的结果,那就是:进步。(财富中文网)

    斯科特·尼奎斯特是麦肯锡石油和天然气业务、以及可持续发展与资源生产力网络的全球领导人。

    译者:严匡正

    审校:任文科

    In the 1960s classic film, The Graduate, a man barks advice to a young Dustin Hoffmann about his future: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics.” For the renewable energy industry these days, its future can also be summed up in one word: storage.

    Renewables are growing. Even many of my friends in the oil and gas industry concede that the energy mix of the future is going to look a lot different from the one we have now—and renewables will be a much bigger part of the picture. The real question is how close (or distant) that future is.

    Based on current technologies, the conclusion of the fossil fuel industry is—pretty darn far. In its 2015 Outlook on Energy, for example, Exxon XOM 0.59% projects that solar will grow by a factor of 20 and wind by five—but that by 2040 all renewables will still make up less than 10 percent of the global power supply. In its projections to 2035, BP BP 0.80% ends up in the same neighborhood.

    The reason is that people really do want to be able to flip a switch and see the lights come on. Renewables (other than hydro, which has had its day) cannot deliver that; there always needs to be another source of backup power, which means fossil fuels or nuclear. Consider Germany. Even though it is investing heavily in renewables, it “will continue to need almost as many conventional power stations as before,” noted technology minister, Philipp Rosler. “When there is no wind, or it is cloudy, conventional power stations need to jump in and cover the bulk of energy consumption so that the electricity supply can be maintained securely. …At present, only flexible conventional power stations can do this.”

    What renewables need to scale up to the very big time, then, is a game-changer (to use some consultant-speak). If solar or wind power could be economically stored, then released on command, that could fundamentally change the world’s power dynamics.

    This idea is neither new nor fantastic. Hydro has used pumped storage systems for decades; your cellphone’s battery is a form of storage. But the technology basically doesn’t exist for wind or solar. That could be changing. IHS, the respected energy consultancy, projects that energy storage will grow from a one-third of a gigawatt in 2013 to 6 GW by 2017 and more than 40 GW by 2022. In 2013, McKinsey estimated that the economic impact of energy storage would be at least $90 billion a year by 2025, and possibly much more (up to $635 billion) depending on how fast it is applied to cars. This is a drop in the bucket that is the $6 trillion global energy market—but it is a drop that is getting bigger.

    In fact, as we have seen with both shale and solar over the last decade, decades of work and dozens of innovations can come together and create a tipping point where use dramatically increases. I think that could happen with storage. We are seeing many of the same dynamics.

    Specifically, there are tons of experiments going on, ranging from a system that supports a 153-megawatt wind farm in Texas to one in midtown Manhattan that keeps a skyscraper cool, warm, and lit to one that provides backup support for isolated utilities in Alaska. Not all of these will work, or work well enough, cheaply enough to scale up. But that is true of any innovation; what matters is that lots of ideas are being tried. Some of them will succeed.

    It’s worth noting, too, that the storage technologies that do exist are getting cheaper. In 2007, the cost of large-format lithium-ion storage was about $900 per kilowatt-hour; that is down to about $380, and could drop below $200 by 2020. There are other promising battery technologies that could leapfrog or at least complement li-ion, such as liquid metal, lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, sodium-ion, nano-based supercapacitors, and energy cache technology.

    Finally, this is one area concerning renewables that the utilities are not fighting; in fact, they are investing. That matters, because we need the grid, and storage could actually strengthen it. Right now, utilities have to build extra capacity just to meet occasional peaks; the US typically uses less than 30 percent of capacity. If utilities could store power during periods of low demand, then release it during peaks, that would save a ton of money on capital costs, while also smoothing out frequency variations and providing voltage support. To venture into consultant speak again, that’s a win-win.

    I am not a green-tinted Pollyanna. I know that there are lots of hurdles before storage becomes mainstream. As the hard-headed environmentalists at the Rocky Mountain Institute put it recently, there is no energy-storage business model at the moment that “offers anything close to a cash-positive scenario.” The McKinsey Global Institute cautions that there are many big issues that need to be addressed.

    But the big picture is this. There are many smart people, all over the world, working on energy storage. Investment in their research is growing. Costs are falling. Technologies are proliferating. And people want it. There is one word that sums up the likely consequence of those trends: progress.

    Scott Nyquist is a global leader in McKinsey’s oil & gas practice and also its Sustainability & Resource Productivity Network. He writes a column for LinkedIn on energy and environmental issues.

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