Turkey’s dependency on foreign energy resources should be eliminated

The Soma mine disaster claimed 301 lives last week, sparking, among other debates, discussion over the use of fossil fuels and Turkey’s dependency on foreign energy.

Turkey has an obligation to pursue clean energy, despite the fact that the government has not pursued a transition to renewable energy sources, as some developed countries have.

Since Turkey is more dependent on importing energy sources like oil and natural gas through long-term agreements, a clean energy revolution seems impossible for the country in the near future.

While much of the developed world, such as the US and countries in the European Union, are reducing the share of fossil fuels in their energy production and consumption totals, Turkey is far from adopting a comprehensive state policy for adopting clean and renewable energy to satisfy consumer, industrial and commercial demand.

While developed countries seek ways to increase their usage of wind, solar and geothermal energy in power generation, figures in Turkey reveal no significant initiatives or investment in these technologies.

Specialists on alternative energy are warning the government of the risks energy sources like nuclear, coal and natural gas pose to Turkey.

For instance, the US offers entrepreneurs time-limited tax credits for wind and solar power as well as electric vehicles in an effort to lower costs and meet surging demand.

According to Professor Tanay S?dk? Uyar, president of Eurosolar Turkey, Turkey’s current energy sources are increasing harmful carbon emissions as well as exacerbating climate change. “Developed states and high-tech companies are looking for a shift to a cleaner, more secure energy future,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.

Uyar said that the cost of generating one kilowatt hour from wind turbines was 8 cents in 2010 in the US, while natural gas and coal cost Turkey 34 cents per kilowatt hour, emphasizing that building wind turbines in Turkey would help drive down costs in the future.

“The problems that we have to deal with are the storage of renewable energy, to make it fully independent of fossil fuels. Each year we organize an international renewable energy storage conference to deal with the problem.”

Emphasizing the positive sides of renewable energy, Uyar said that next-generation clean energy would foster freedom, equality and peace, adding, “You don’t have to kill anyone to access solar energy, as the struggle to obtain oil resources is getting worse around the world, and older technologies … don’t factor into companies’ plans anymore.”

Since the beginning of 2008, he said, wind power capacity has more than tripled in the US, adding that just like solar energy, wind energy will never run out.

According to Uyar’s figures, Turkey obtains 4 percent of its total electricity from wind-based technology, adding, “It is just like a newborn baby. This renewable energy source has been neglected for years. The total electricity Turkey could produce from wind is 83,000 megawatts.”

Uyar emphasized that Germany produces nearly 40 percent of its electricity from wind, while the US will reach 20 percent within 15 years.

“Despite many European countries having successfully begun their transition to wind-based energy solutions in the 1980s, Turkey launched its first wind turbine in 1996 in Bozcaada Island. However, the electricity generation from solar is almost zero. In fact, when Turkey’s geographical position is considered, wind power could potentially generate three times more electricity than all other sources.

“The cost of installing a solar panel that will produce one kilowatt of electricity is around $800 (approximately TL 1,700), while it was higher in previous years,” Uyar noted.

Criticizing former and current governments’ energy policies, Uyar said 25 years of the “take-or-pay” clauses in natural gas contracts has made Turkey heavily dependent on external energy, adding, “These agreements require the country to import predetermined amounts of natural gas, meaning that Turkey has to pay Iran and several other countries a specified amount of money irrespective of whether it needs that amount of natural gas. In such an environment, making investment in wind and solar energy may not seem reasonable for the government, as it means additional costs on the budget.”

Turkey is self-sufficient in terms of energy resources

Uyar said Turkey is actually a self-sufficient country in terms clean energy sources, which he argues could meet 100 percent of the country’s total energy demand, including transportation, heating and electricity.

“If you dismantle the coal thermal power plants in Turkey and abolish dependency on coal in energy generation, we would not need many hospitals. It is a known fact that fossil fuels give rise to multiple health problems. We are not bound to these plants,” Uyar added.

Also slamming a government initiative to build a nuclear power plant in Sinop in a bid to reduce dependency on foreign energy, Uyar said, “The cost of producing 5,000 megawatt hours of electricity in a nuclear plant is estimated at $22 billion, while 22,000 megawatts of wind energy could be produced for the same price. And this plant will allow more developed countries to send their nuclear waste to Turkey for storage. Since 1978, the US has not built any new nuclear plants in the US, for they recognized that they do more harm than good.”

Abdurrahman Satman, head of the Conventional Energy Division at ?stanbul Technical University’s (?TÜ) Energy Institute, also said that Turkey has huge potential to generate energy from renewables like solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal, adding that fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) constitute 90 percent of Turkey’s energy consumption.

Satman told Sunday’s Zaman that a lack of infrastructure at home hobbles Turkey in exploiting its vast renewable energy resources.

Stressing that Turkey should give priority to and step up the promotion of these alternative energy producing technologies, Satman said, “We are now importing 92 percent of our oil from oil-rich countries as well as 99 percent of our natural gas, which places huge economic burden and costs on Turkey. Since Turkey doesn’t have a very strong economy, such massive imports create problems in budget balance.”

“Oil and coal are estimated to remain the primary energy sources for Turkey until 2035-2040, and the transition to clean energy systems would be highly painful,” Satman said.