区块链与能源行业:有希望、有泡沫和想革命

产业
  • 币橙网社区
  • 2018-08-20 12:06

东京电力公司(TEPCO),日本最大的电力公司,似乎并不可能成为新技术革命的支持方。此公司因为在2011年发生的福岛核电站泄漏事件中,其保守僵化的高管展现出的日本公司的无能一面而闻名。但现在,东电公司正在华丽转身,致力于将自己打造成为最新型能源形式的引领者。而区块链技术则成为公司达到这一目的的绝佳助力。东电公司打算通过区块链来颠覆目前能源行业的现状,使之更加去中心化。

TEPCO, Japan’s largest energy firm, is an unlikely advocate of techno-anarchy. The firm is best known for the meltdown at its Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant in 2011, during which its buttoned-down executives showed corporate Japan at its most stultified. Yet it is trying to reinvent itself as a pioneer of one of the edgiest forms of energy. It is embracing blockchain technology with an aim, no less, of overthrowing the old order in the electricity business to make it more decentralised.

区块链作为支撑比特币和其它加密货币的底层技术,粗看起来跟能源行业并不搭调。在过去,发电一事一直是由电厂负责,电力经电网流向四面八方,而技术员的不断维护则保证电力能持续畅通流动。另一方面,区块链是分布式的数字账本,由一群用户共同维护,而并非借助中心化的机构进行管理。如果非要将两者扯上点关系的话,区块链更像是能源的消费大户而非得力助手。博客Digiconomist估计,一次比特币转账所需的电力,大概可以够荷兰的一户普通家庭用上一个月。

Blockchains, the technologies on which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built, may at first appear to be an uneasy fit with the energy business. Electricity has in the past been generated centrally, run across vast physical grids, with constant management by system operators to keep power flowing smoothly. Blockchains are distributed digital ledgers, which are not managed by a central authority, but collectively by a group of users. If anything, cryptocurrency blockchains are a drain on energy rather than a support for it. Digiconomist, a blog, estimates that just one bitcoin transaction uses as much electricity as an average household in the Netherlands uses in a month.

然而在现今这个时代,企业,社区和家庭主要通过太阳能和风能从而加速参与到发电进行当中,不管是初创企业还是行业巨头,都相信区块链可以加速对于这个行业进行去中心化改造的速度。他们正在寻找实现这个目标的最节能途径。

Yet in an era when more businesses, communities and households are generating their own energy, chiefly via solar and wind power, startups and big utilities alike believe blockchains will help speed the move towards decentralisation. They are finding ways to do this with minimal energy consumption.

但这其中很多泡沫,还有几分忠臣跳反的味道,因为这是墨守成规的电力企业却在推行能够打破现状的科技。几乎所有区块链应用都在实验阶段而尚未落地。然而将区块链与能源相结合的企业所可能涵盖的范围是如此之广,对于行业的改造也许真能成功。区块链应用涵盖从在个人之间买卖,交换清洁能源(又称为点对点交易),到平衡整个电力市场(确保电力供给匹配需求),再到交易碳排放配额。远期的应用也包括使家庭成为电动汽车的充电站,和为太阳能在不发达国家的发展提供资金支持。

There is lots of hype and a degree of heresy, given that stodgy utilities are making use of an anti-establishment technology. Almost all blockchain applications are still experimental. But the scope of potential blockchain-energy businesses is so wide that there may be successes to come. The applications range from ways to promote buying, selling or trading of clean energy between individuals (also called peer-to-peer trading), to balancing wholesale electricity markets (ensuring that supply always matches demand), to trading carbon credits.

Further uses are enabling households to provide charging stations for electric cars, and funding the development of solar power in poor countries.

相关数据尚不明确。由美国前能源部长Ernest Moniz领导的智库,能源远景组织(The Energy Futures Initiative)称,已经有1-3亿美元的投资进入到一百多家使用区块链技术的能源企业当中。美国外交关系协会(Council on Foreign Relations, CFR)的专家称,到目前为止,绝大部分投资投入了点对点能源交易和平衡电网电量的应用中。在这些投资中,投资者都秉承了“勇于尝试”的态度。一家旨在为能源行业开发区块链核心技术的非营利性企业,能源网络基金会(Energy Web Foundation,EWF)的Sam Hartnett评论道:“这有点像在1995年时人们看待移动电话的感觉,大家都不知道移动通讯的未来会是什么样。”

Numbers are hazy. The Energy Futures Initiative, a think-tank led by Ernest Moniz, a former American energy secretary, says that $100m-300m has been invested in over 100 blockchain-related energy ventures. Specialists at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an American think-tank, say most investment so far has gone into peer-to-peer trading and grid-balancing applications. A “try-anything” attitude prevails. “It is like looking at cell phones circa 1995 and not knowing what the future of mobile communications will be,” says Sam Hartnett of the, a non-profit venture aimed at developing core blockchain technology for the energy industry.

举例而言,东电公司在此项技术的应用上持有“下河才知水深浅”的态度。在2017年12月,东电投资了Electron,一家英国的区块链公司,主营业务为管理电力系统中通过多种渠道而来的弹性电量,但投资数额未有透露。在2018年4月,一家新加坡初创企业Electrify称,已与东电公司签署了关于实验点对点电力交易的备忘录。东电公司同时也是EWF的70余家会员之一,其它会员包括美国杜克能源,英国森特理克集团,荷兰皇家壳牌公司和挪威国家石油公司。在所有行业组织中,EWF在探索通过使用区块链应用来监测用来抵消碳排放的可再生能源证书,在使之更加透明化,可量化方面引领同业公司。

Tepco, for instance, appears to be throwing the digital equivalent of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. In December, it made an investment of an undisclosed sum in Electron, a British blockchain company that is focusing chiefly on handling the multiplying options for flexible demand in electricity systems. In April Electrify, a Singapore-based startup, said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Tepco to experiment with peer-to-peer electricity trading. The Japanese group is also one of more than 70 firms, including utilities Duke Energy and Centrica, and oil firms Royal Dutch Shell and Equinor, that are part of the EWF. Among many initiatives, the EWF is pioneering a blockchain application that tracks renewable-energy certificates used to offset carbon emissions to make them more transparent and granular.

但专家称,打破关于在两个区块链和能源相结合中出现的错误观念十分必要——一个是过于乐观的,一个是过于悲观的。首先,有种由1C0推动传播的观点认为,每个人都可以通过区块链和通证来互相交易本地发出的电(例如家庭太阳能发电),而不需要电力公司作为中央处理。这基本上是毫无道理。电力仍然需要借助电线杆和电线传输,而负责这些流程的企业只收现钱。如果区块链能够应用的话,只能在个人端进行应用。

Experts say it is important to bust two myths—one too positive, the other too negative—about the blockchain and energy. First, there is a view, promoted in many initial coin offerings, that everyone will be able to use the blockchain and cryptocurrencies to trade locally-generated energy (rooftop solar, for instance) with each other, without a centralised utility in the middle. This is largely nonsense. Electricity still needs to travel down poles and wires, for which the transmission and distribution companies will want hard cash. The blockchain will be used, if at all, at either end of the grid.

而过于负面的观点是,如果区块链想要起作用,必须需要巨量的电力作为支撑。但这种观点假设区块链能源项目应用的是需要大量算力和时间来验证每笔交易,从而保护区块链的比特币。事实上,能源公司可以建立只邀请特定伙伴加入的区块链网络,从而使维护区块链运转的过程更为高效,节能。

On the negative side, a view prevails that the blockchain will guzzle too much electricity for energy applications to make sense. But this assumes that projects will use a public blockchain such as bitcoin, which anyone can access with the right software, requiring lots of computing power and time to verify each transaction and protect the blockchain. Energy firms could in fact employ blockchains in which only trusted participants can join, making the process of maintaining the blockchain faster and less energy-hungry.

Harnett称,虽然比特币转账所需要电量大致相当于一个中型国家的日常用电量,EWF所用区块链的用电量“只相当于一个中型大小的办公楼”。能源公司在区块链这项能把他们的命革掉的技术中发现了机会,即建立只邀请特定伙伴的区块链。而这些能源公司会通过这项技术,在能源的去中心化过程中保持中心地位。“在未来几年,那些最可能商业化的区块链企业将主要同现有体制合作,并与能源公司保持伙伴关系,”CFR的一份报告如是说。或者正如Electrify 公司的Martin Lim 生动的评论:“多么讽刺。昨天是反贼,今日受招安。”

Mr Harnett says that, while bitcoin transactions can consume the energy of a medium-sized country when done regularly, those of EWF are “of the order of a medium-sized office building”. The use of trusted pools of participants is where the utilities spy an opportunity to co-opt a potentially insurgent technology; they will use it to remain central to the decentralisation of electricity. “The [blockchain] ventures most likely to achieve commercial traction in the coming years will largely work within the existing system and partner with incumbents such as utilities,” says the CFR report. Or as Electrify’s Martin Lim colourfully puts it, “It’s ironic. Every subversive turns into a dictator.”

《经济学人》(英语:The Economist)是一份英国的英文新闻周报,它在1843年9月由詹姆斯·威尔逊创办。是一本涉及全球政治、经济、文化、科技等多方面事务的综合性新闻评论刊物,着重于对这些议题提供深入的分析和评论。它面向教育程度较高的人群,读者中包括诸多具有影响力的高管和决策者。本文选自经济学人2018年8月2日的文章。


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