Turkey has a high potential for deploying renewable energy technologies but it is hard to make those important breakthroughs to see the full potential achieved. Salim Avci writes on the Sunday’s Zaman website about the voices being raised in Turkey to give renewable energy a higher priority.
Experts call for increase of renewable sources in energy portfolio
As Turkey’s green areas have been opened up for coal production facilities as part of the government’s plan to increase the share of domestic coal in energy generation, experts argue that the energy policy should be revised to reflect the fact that the world’s major countries are instead turning to renewable sources of energy.
Last year, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said Turkey wanted 30 percent of its targeted energy production of 100 billion [megawatt hours] MWh per year in 2023 to come from domestic coal. “If it is considered that [the] present day share of coal is at 13 percent, then [domestic] coal’s share in the overall production of energy will be doubled [by 2023],” he said.
Locals in the Yırca district of Manisa province, where there are 150 million tons of coal reserves, resisted the pro-government Kolin Holding’s plan to construct a thermal power plant in the district last year. The 6th Chamber of the Council of State finally annulled the expropriation of the 388,000 square meters of olive groves by the company in April after protests by the villagers. However, the decision of the court only came after the company had already felled 6,000 olive trees.
Professor Tanay Sıtkı Uyar, president of Eurosolar Turkey, told Sunday’s Zaman that countries are abandoning the production of fossil fuels, including coal, and urged Turkey to revise its energy policy by increasing the share of renewable energy sources in its total production of energy.
Noting that the major international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the US Exim Bank have ceased to provide loans for coal production, Uyar urged Turkey to focus on producing energy from wind and solar power as the country’s topography and climate is highly favorable for producing energy from such renewable resources.
“Hillary Clinton has pledged that 500 million solar panels will be built in the US [if she gets elected president]. The US is preparing to derive energy from renewable resources in the coming decades,” added Uyar.
He also pointed out the importance of the introduction of measures to use energy efficiently and avoid waste as part of Turkey’s energy policy by saying that the usage of LED lighting and other innovative methods in transportation, factories and households will help the country to use energy frugally.
‘Coal only an option if produced with modern techniques’
In an interview with Sunday’s Zaman, Necdet Pamir, an academic at Bilkent Univeristy and head of the energy committee of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), noted that 73.5 percent of Turkey’s energy consumption is supplied by imports and said that energy production from coal would only be a viable option if modern and environment-friendly techniques are used.
Turkey spent a total of $54 billion on energy imports last year, which amounts to 25 percent of all the country’s imports. Pamir claimed that Turkey has the potential to create almost 750 billion kilowatt hours of energy if it taps into unused indigenous energy sources such as coal, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy efficiently, which would be three times the electricity consumed last year. He believes Turkey should increase the percentage of its domestic resources in its currently high-import dependent mix.
He maintained that if the current private coal companies, which are poorly equipped in terms of environmental and safety standards as well as techincally inadequate, were to be modernized, then coal production would be a good option until the country shifts to much higher levels of renewable energy in its portfolio.
“Domestic coal production would reduce dependence on foreign countries and generate employment. Power plants based on clean coal technologies suitable for our own coal sources, such as those with fluidized-bed combustion, and equipped with appropriate air-filter systems and which will cause minimal damage to the environment should operate in the sector,” he said.
He lamented that the companies currently involved in coal production fail to meet standards in terms of dealing with hazards to the environment or ensuring workplace safety.
According to Pamir, mining licenses are too easily granted to private companies if they have ties with government officials, irrespective of whether they have the expertise or are well equipped to operate in the sector.
“Companies with expertise should operate in the mining sector. The previous reports of the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers [MMO] showed that mining companies use outdated technology,” said Pamir. “The owners of those firms used to operate in sectors [that are irrelevant to the mining sector] such as food production or textiles. They just enter the mining sector for profit despite lacking any expertise in the sector.”