Why do we insist on coal despite our renewable potential?
Although fossil fuels, especially coal, dominated the world after the Industrial Revolution, times have changed.
Over the past 200 years, mankind has progressed far faster than ever to transform the world into an uninhabitable place for future generations, by intervening with the air, water and soil.
The climate is changing, waters are rising; storms and floods are getting tougher; soil is losing its fertility.
Some countries are turning away from coal and head towards renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.
Turkey, on the other hand, insists on coal.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation’s publication the “Coal Atlas,” is opening up the realities of coal for debate.
Özgür Gürbüz, one of the authors of the Coal Atlas, uses numbers to show Turkey can do without coal:
“In 2016, Turkey consumed 278 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. The solar energy potential in Turkey is 380 billion kWh. The wind energy potential is 100-120 billion kWh. Add 15 billion kWh of geothermal and 60 billion kWh of biogas and you will see the renewable energy potential is two to three times that of Turkey’s electricity consumption. More importantly, our country has a potential for energy savings and productivity of 20 to 25 percent.”
Do you know what it means to save 20 percent?
It means there is no need for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.
So, why are we stuck with coal?
Why is there a target for the Ministry of Energy to increase electricity production from domestic coal by 50 percent in their 2015-2019 strategic plans?
Why does Turkey want to use more coal contrary to the trend in the world?
Is it possible to reduce foreign dependence on energy this way?
Because while Turkey’s foreign dependence on energy was 61 percent in 2001, the number today is 75 percent. Hydroelectric power plants established on almost every river did not reduce external dependency.
Turkey drifts into a swamp as it avoids transformation energy production. As the world is going to a different place, we are pursuing a job that will not happen. What happened with the hydroelectric power plants is now happening with coal plants.
Coal-fired power stations are being built through incentives.
It was said that “coal is cheap,” but then, incentives such as treasury guarantee, purchase guarantee etc. have been allocated to allow coal energy to withstand renewable energy.
“More importantly,” says Gürbüz, “compromises are being made for coal in addition to financial incentives.”
This is done through the environment.
Had the law passed for cutting down the olive groves, it would have paved the way to build coal plants at any desired location.
Agricultural lands are sacrificed for coal plants.
But when we look at it, our foreign energy dependency does not decrease.
Then what, is the solution?
It does not make sense to set a target of 3,000 megawatts for solar energy while setting a target of 150,000 megawatts for coal energy at the same time.
The solution is to set a “percentage target” for renewable energy and energy savings.
The following questions should be answered:
How much of your electricity will be obtained from the wind, from the sun and from geothermal power etc.?
At which rates will energy savings be realized?
If Germany, a giant industry, continues to grow with less energy, it is possible. What kind of idle energy-intensive sectors will Turkey get rid of and what will be the sectors for breakthrough?
Although South Korea is more dependent on foreign energy than Turkey, no one in the country is talking about it because South Korea produces and sells very high value added products with oil. What about us?
We are trying to run industrial plants that have very low added value with natural gas imported from abroad and trying to run cement factories on coal.
Turkey has a huge potential for energy transformation. We have much more sun, many windier, long beaches than the northern European countries with a renewable energy target of up to 100 percent.
There is neither a technical barrier nor do our people abstain from it. The polls show the people to have very high support for renewable energy.
Why shouldn’t we do it?
There is only one thing we need for this: political will.
If the political will says “yes,” this can be achieved.