《经济学人》:妙招告急-日本能源问题
日期:2011-09-23 11:17

(单词翻译:单击)

Energy in Japan
日本能源问题

Bright ideas needed
妙招告急

Japan’s power monopolies raise costs and stifle innovation
日本能源垄断企业——拽高成本,扼杀创新

Sep 17th 2011 | TOKYO | from the print edition

THE corridors were dark, the air uncomfortably hot. The lights at the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) were largely switched off; the air-conditioners were turned down. Even the chief executive, Toshio Nishizawa, had removed his tie for an interview on September 5th. In normal times, that would be a glaring breach of Japanese corporate etiquette, but these are not normal times.

走廊伸手不见十指,空气燥热难忍。东京电力总部,几乎没几盏灯亮着,空调冷气也已调小。9月5日接受采访时,东电首席执行官Toshio Nishizawa甚至都未系领带。这要放在平时,显然就是公然违背日本公司礼仪。但如今绝非“平时”。

Since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, most nuclear reactors in Japan have been shut down for maintenance and not restarted: 43 out of 54 remain idle. There has been a national drive for setsuden (conserving energy). TEPCO must be seen to share the pain.

3月11日地震海啸袭来,日本大部分核反应堆都因维护原因关停,尚未重启使用,54座反应堆中有43座仍然闲置。日本全国上下曾掀起“能源节约”热潮,东电必须做出样子,有所分担。

The company is staggeringly unpopular. One of its nuclear plants at Fukushima was damaged on March 11th. In the crucial hours after the tsunami, TEPCO failed to add water to cool the reactor cores. It was unable to restore steady back-up power until days later and inexplicably delayed venting a build-up of pressure that eventually led to hydrogen explosions.

如今,东电极不受待见。3月11日的灾难中,东电在福岛的一座核电站被毁。海啸退去关键的几个小时内,东电未能向反应堆核心注水降温。而且直到灾难爆发数天之后,东电才恢复稳定的备用电源。再者,东电迟迟未释放反应堆内激增的巨大压力,最终导致了氢爆炸,真叫人无法理解。

As if that were not bad enough, TEPCO withheld information from everyone, including the then prime minister, Naoto Kan, who stormed into its headquarters yelling: “What the hell is going on?” A meltdown began several hours after the tsunami struck, but wasn’t officially disclosed until nine weeks later. “We have lost trust,” admits Mr Nishizawa. Regaining it will take “a long, long time”, he adds.

东电貌似觉得这还不够惨,竟而还对外封锁消息,连时任首相菅直人都被蒙在鼓里,菅直人冲进东电总部吼道:“到底怎么回事?”海啸来袭数小时之后,反应堆炉心就已融毁,但直到9个礼拜后东电才正式披露消息。Toshio Nishizawa也承认东电已失去公众信任,并表示重获信任,绝不是一朝一夕的事情。

Asked whether the reactor was damaged by the quake itself (as distinct from the tsunami that followed it), Mr Nishizawa says it is unclear: we must wait for a report in November. This question matters. If the reactors in quake-prone Japan are not quake-proof, nuclear power may not be safe. An official at a nuclear regulator says there is evidence that the quake did indeed damage the reactor.

对于‘地震是否为摧毁反应堆元凶’这个问题(与随后的海啸损害不同),Toshio Nishizawa的回答是“不清楚”,说要等到11月报告出台后,方才清楚。地震是不是元凶这个问题至关重要。日本这么一个地震频发的国家,倘若反应堆不抗震,那么核能也许就不安全。核能监管部门的一名官员表示,有证据表明的确是地震摧毁了反应堆。

Since the disaster, Japanese people have made heroic efforts to save energy. Households snuffed out lights and unplugged their heated toilet seats. Big companies reduced their energy use by 15% (on pain of fines). Many began the workday earlier or switched to night shifts. The car industry took Thursdays and Fridays off and toiled at weekends, when electricity demand is lower. In TEPCO’s region (around Tokyo), peak usage fell to 49 gigawatts, from 60 gigawatts last year. Everyone expected blackouts; none occurred. On September 9th, as the summer’s heat faded, the government announced an end to setsuden.

灾难过后,日本民众做出巨大努力节省能源。家家户户熄掉电灯,关掉便桶加热器。大公司纷纷砍掉了15%的能耗(震慑于罚款)。不少日本人要么工作日早早起床工作,要么转而倒夜班。由于周末电力需求不那么紧张,汽车工业周四周五停工,周六周日苦干。今年,东电辖区(东京地区)的高峰用电量从去年同期的60千兆瓦下降到49千兆瓦。人人都做好了大面积停电的准备,却多虑了。9月9日,鉴于酷暑散去,日本政府宣布“能源节约”告一段落。

Yet Japan’s energy problems are far from resolved. If the nuclear freeze lasts for a year, it will cut GDP by an estimated 3.6% and destroy almost 200,000 jobs. Meanwhile, three-fifths of the public say they have little confidence in nuclear power.

然而,日本能源危机还远远没有解决。倘若到明年3月,核能仍未能重启的话,预计,GDP将会因此下滑3.6%,20万工作岗位也会随之灰飞烟灭。与此同时,3/5的民众对核能没什么信心。

Japan needs a robust and diverse energy industry. Instead it has ten regional monopolies (TEPCO is one), which hog 97% of the market for electricity generation and transmission. Residential consumers pay nearly twice as much as Americans and three times as much as South Koreans (see chart). After modest deregulation began for big commercial users a decade ago, prices plummeted by 16% between 1999 and 2005. Yet lacking political support, the reforms went into reverse.

日本需要一个强劲而又多元化的能源产业。但事与愿违,却崛起了10家区域垄断电力集团(东京电力公司是其中之一),他们把持着全国97%的发电输电市场份额。日本家庭用户上缴的电费几乎是美国人的2倍,韩国人的3倍(见图表)。十年前,政府开始实施针对大型商业用户的供电适度宽松政策,使得电价在1999到2005年间下滑了16%。然而由于缺少政治支持,供电改革走上回头路。

Electricity prices are high because the monopolies have little incentive to cut costs. On the contrary, their profit margins are fixed by the government, so if they inflate their costs, they boost their income. At the same time, the utilities charge residential consumers a flat rate, giving them no incentive to run appliances during off-peak hours. Alternative energy gets short shrift. Although Japanese firms are leaders in green technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal, these sources account for only 1% of all power generation.

电价高昂是因为垄断商们没什么理由削减成本。而恰恰相反,由于政府规定死了电力公司的利润率,所以他们一旦抬高成本,盈利就会随之增加。同时电力公司按时计价收取家庭用户电费,因此,即使是非高峰时段,用户也没理由狂用家电。替代能源也不受待见。虽说日本企业在风能,太阳能和地热能等绿色能源产业上处于领先地位,但绿色能源发电也只占总发电量的1%。

TEPCO’s influence is vast. It supports politicians from one party; its union supports their rivals. It finances academic research on energy. It takes hacks on junkets. And last year it spent ¥26 billion ($339m) on advertising and promotion—a fortune for a firm with no serious competitors.

东电有着巨大的影响力。集团支持一党政客,工会则支持他们的竞争对手。东电为学术能源研究买单,并且资助低层官员公费旅游。去年,东电又花费260亿日元(约合3.39亿美元)做宣传,打广告。没有强劲竞争对手的东电却耗费了这么一笔巨款。

Reformers urge the break-up of Japan’s power monopolies. Separating generation from transmission and opening the door to new entrants would raise efficiency and reduce costs. However, Keidanren, the lobby for big business, opposes deregulation on the ground that TEPCO and its ilk ensure a stable supply of electricity. Several Keidanren members sell parts and services to the power monopolies, and receive steep discounts on the power they use.

革新人士敦促打日本打破能源垄断局势。发电与输电分开经营,打开大门欢迎新成员入驻电力产业,都能提高效率并降低成本。然而,大企业游说团体(Keidanren)却反对放宽管制,他们的理由是东电及其同行能够确保供电稳定。Keidanren的几个会员是电力垄断集团的零件及服务供给商,同时他们也享受着巨大的电价折扣。

Many politicians believe that TEPCO must be preserved so it can compensate the victims of the nuclear accident at Fukushima. A law governing compensation was approved by the Diet on August 3rd. It creates a mechanism to collect funds from TEPCO and other power firms but fails to specify how the costs will be shared. On September 12th TEPCO sent out forms for evacuees to fill in. These are 60 pages long.

不少政客认为东电不能倒台,因为福岛核事故受害者还等着她赔偿呢。日本议会于8月3日通过了赔偿法案,该法案提出向东电及其它电力公司筹资,但却未指明各方承担多少赔偿份额。9月12日,东电分发表格供撤离人员填写,这些表格长达60页。

The new government of Yoshihiko Noda wants to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power in the medium term, but hopes to restart idle reactors in the meantime. Without cheap, reliable power, businesses may move abroad.

野田佳彦新政府打算在中期时间之内,降低日本对核能的依赖,但同时,他们也希望重启闲置反应堆。如若没有廉价可靠的电力供应,许多企业可能会迁往国外。

New firms are clamouring to enter the energy business. Masayoshi Son, a wireless tycoon, plans to build huge solar-power stations and a new grid to connect Japanese prefectures. But the regulatory process is a nightmare, he says. A new law on green energy gives few clues as to how new producers can sell power to the grid, or whether the incumbents have to buy it. Not even an earthquake, it seems, can shake the monopolists’ grip.

新企业吵着要开进能源产业。无线巨头Masayoshi Son打算兴建大型太阳能发电站,并计划新开通一条输电网,连通日本各县。但他表示,规章程序好比噩梦一场。新出台的绿色能源法案几乎未说明,新发电商通过何种渠道向电网出售电力,也未说明现在的电力供应企业是否要购买新能源电力。似乎即便是地震也无法撼动垄断集团的铁爪。

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重点单词
  • fundsn. 基金;资金,现金(fund的复数) v. 提供资金
  • specifyv. 指定,阐述,详细说明
  • alternativeadj. 两者择一的; 供选择的; 非主流的 n. 替换
  • breachn. 裂口,破坏,违背,(浪的)冲击,决裂 vt. 违反
  • academicadj. 学术的,学院的,理论的 n. 大学教师,
  • primeadj. 最初的,首要的,最好的,典型的 n. 青春,壮
  • eventuallyadv. 终于,最后
  • pressuren. 压力,压强,压迫 v. 施压
  • reliancen. 信赖,所信赖的人或物
  • restorevt. 恢复,修复,使复原