EiD has been plunked in the middle of Istanbul this week, attending Energy Efficiency Week. It has been a rewarding and encouraging event. Not only is a lot happening, but there are signs that a lot more will and should occur. Only the week before EiD set foot in Istanbul, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, had an event to discuss the recently published World Energy Outlook by the IEA. Barçin Yinanç provided her opinion in the Turkish Daily News, focusing on Birol’s views on how the renewable energy sector is really making inroads.
‘Renewable energy is not romantic story, it’s mainstream’
The last days of 2015 saw a dramatic increase in air pollution levels in Istanbul.
One wishes the continuation of alarming levels of pollution in Turkey’s big cities since nothing looks poised to push the government to endorse an energy policy sensitive to climate change.
Indeed, as implied by Fatih Birol, the lead of International Energy Agency (IEA), if we are seeing a behavioral change in China’s policies for emission mitigation, one of the main reasons is the unbearable levels of air pollution in Chinese cities.
What good is having high growth levels if you can’t breathe outside?
What will it take for Turkish officials to grasp the urgent need to transition to low carbon energy? Seeing half of the population in Istanbul walking around with masks? That might not even be enough as many are convinced that the motto of this government is “money talks.”
Well there is a case there too! But before I come to that, let me quote Energy Ministry Undersecretary Fatih Dönmez, who spoke yesterday at the same meeting where Birol presented on İEA’s energy world outlook report.
“Some countries are making commitments by saying that they will descend from the 12th floor to the 6th floor. Turkey cannot be made to look less environmental with percentage games when it is trying to get to the fourth floor from the second floor,” said the Energy Ministry’s brand new undersecretary Dönmez.
Let me translate it for those who might not be familiar with the issue. What Turkey says basically is, “Developed countries have polluted the world to get to their current levels of development. Yet, they don’t want emerging markets to pollute while going to higher levels of development. This is not fair.”
Climate change justice cannot equate the freedom of repeating past mistakes. It is one thing to force developed countries to assist less developed ones in terms of financial and technological assistance for clean and efficient energy and another thing to insist polluting the environment for the sake of fast and high growth.
Reaching high growth levels won’t serve any good if we are going to see the destruction of our environment. But since this does not seem to be convincing, the government should lend an ear to Birol who said renewable energy is no longer a romantic dream.
“Fifty percent of the new power plants that came into force in 2014-2015 were renewables. Some think that renewables can be afforded by the well-off. But renewable energy is shifting to emerging markets and developing countries. Two-thirds of investments in renewable energy come from emerging markets,” said Birol.
Renewable energy has proven itself as a mainstream business, according to Birol. “In the next five years, $6.50 out of 10 of investments in the electricity sector will go to renewables. Following the Paris climate change summit, more emphasis will be put on innovation. The costs of renewable energy are going down. So we need a balancing act on our thinking. Don’t make investments in wrong technologies; otherwise, you might risk your profits,” warned Birol, addressing an audience that included representatives of the private sector.
Two prominent women representing the private sector spoke ahead of Birol and Dönmez. Frankly I found the speeches of Cansen Başaran Symes, the head of Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), which unfortunately resists replacing the word businessmen with businesspeople, and Güler Sabancı from Sabancı Holding much more progressive as they contained better defined strategies for reform on the energy sector.