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Over the past 12 months, consumers in the U.S. have experienced the disappearance of familiar retailers, such as Toys R Us and Sears, due in part to how online shopping has changed the way consumers shop for goods.

过去12个月,美国消费者经历了熟悉的零售商的消失,比如玩具反斗城和西尔斯,部分原因是网上购物改变了消费者的购物方式。

The historically staid electricity industry is seeing its own share of changes in the form of increased wildfire risks, rising sea levels, damaging storms and changing technology. These factors have already contributed to the bankruptcy of California utility PG&E in California.

历史上稳定的电力行业正在经历其自身的变化,如野火风险增加、海平面上升、破坏性风暴和技术变化。这些因素已经导致加州公用事业公司PG&E破产(即太平洋天然气和电力公司)。



PG&E and wildfires

PG&E公司和野火

The principle reason for the PG&E bankruptcy is its potential liability in the California wildfires – its power lines have been blamed for sparking fires , and the wildfire threat is projected to get worse.

PG&E公司破产的主要原因是它在加州大火中的潜在责任——人们指责它的电源线引发了火灾,而野火的威胁预计会变得更严重。

A safer and more reliable electricity system costs more money, which is ultimately paid by its customers. But PG&E does not manage its system autonomously. The state regulator must decide on the equitable tradeoff between safety or reliability and cost when PG&E provides electricity service.

一个更安全、更可靠的电力系统需要更多的钱,最终由客户支付。但是PG&E并不自主地管理它的系统。当PG&E提供电力服务时,国家监管机构必须在安全或可靠性与成本之间做出公平的权衡。

For example, PG&E’s current public safety power cutoff program allows it to shut off power to half a million customers when environmental conditions, such as dry weather and high winds, increase the likelihood of wildfires. The company has proposed expanding that program by about 5 million customers. This could reduce wildfire risk, but could also interrupt electricity service to more people. The California state regulator is considering whether to accept that proposal.

例如,PG&E目前的公共安全断电计划允许其在干旱天气和大风等环境条件——会增加发生野火的可能性时——切断50万客户的供电。该公司已提议将该计划扩大约500万客户。这可以降低火灾风险,但也可能中断更多的人的电力供应。加州监管机构正在考虑是否接受这一提议。



Seeking zero carbon emitting generation, Georgia and South Carolina turned their attention to nuclear power plants in 2008, 12 years since the last nuclear power plant, the Watts Bar Unit 1 in Tennessee, began operation. South Carolina Electric and Gas and Santee Cooper began work on the V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3, while Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Dalton Utilities began work on the Vogtle Units 3 and 4.

为了寻求零碳排放的发电方式,乔治亚州和南卡罗来纳州在2008年将注意力转向了核电站。南卡罗莱纳电力天然气公司和森迪库珀公司开始了萨默尔2号和3号机组的建设工作,而乔治亚州电力公司、奥格尔索普电力公司、乔治亚州市政电力管理局和道尔顿公用事业公司则开始了沃格特勒3号和4号机组的建设工作。

In the face of rising construction costs, South Carolina Electric and Gas filed a petition to abandon the Summer plants on Aug. 1, 2017. In its petition, SCE&G stated that an independent analysis had shown that the cost to complete the plants was approximately three times what had been provided in early 2017. And when the board of Santee Cooper voted to suspend the project the previous day, citing cost overruns and a business climate that had changed considerably, SCE&G concluded that the only option was to abandon the plant. Included in its petition was a request to recover its US$5.3 billion share of the capital costs from customers.

面对不断上涨的建设成本,南卡罗莱纳电力和天然气公司(SCE&G)于2017年8月1日递交了一份放弃萨默尔工厂的请愿书。在请愿书中该公司表示,一项独立的分析显示,完成这些工厂的成本大约是2017年初提供的三倍。而当森迪库珀公司的董事会前一天投票决定暂停该项目时,SCE&G得出的结论是,唯一的选择是放弃该工厂,理由是成本超支和商业环境发生了巨大变化。该公司在请愿书中要求从客户那里收回53亿美元的资本成本。

On Jan. 2, 2019, SCE&G’s parent company was sold to Dominion Power, a much larger company. The state of South Carolina is exploring the potential sale of Santee Cooper while still considering how to recover its share of the plant.

2019年1月2日,SCE&G的母公司被出售给规模更大的道明尼电力公司。南卡罗来纳州正在探索出售森迪库珀公司的可能性,同时仍在考虑如何收回其在该工厂的股票。



In fact, of all of the electric utility bankruptcies in the modern era, beginning with Public Service Company of New Hampshire in 1988 (due to a dispute over cost recovery of the Seabrook nuclear plant), the lights in people’s homes and businesses have not gone out due to financial pressures or changes in ownership.

事实上,从1988年新罕布什尔州的公共服务公司(由于对西布鲁克核电站成本回收的争议)开始,在现代所有的电力公司破产事件中,人们的家庭和企业的灯并没有因为财务压力或所有权的变化而熄灭。

That’s because the regulatory framework for electric utilities provides some protection for utilities and the manner in which their system interacts with the environment. They can only operate in a manner that the regulator approves, and are allowed the opportunity to recover their costs of providing service. But that protection only applies when the utility operates within the boundaries of those laws and rules.

这是因为电力公用事业的监管框架——为公用事业及其系统与环境相互作用的方式提供了一些保护。它们只能以监管机构批准的方式运营,并有机会收回提供服务的成本。但只有在公用事业在这些法律和规则的范围内运作时,才适用这种保护。