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Energy Security 3.0: Has Anything Really Changed? - Barış Sanlı


Many definitions can be made about the energy security. But probably the shortest and most revealing would be the "temporal and spatial control over energy". The concept of security and the word security can be thought of not only threats in English or Turkish, but also as a resilience and ability to respond to all kinds of threats to come. Therefore, the threat is uncertain. In short, "whatever", preserving the original state of the system would be a logical but questionable description.


According to the definition above, "Is energy security already established?" the answer will always be ambiguous because the threat or many events that would disrupt the original stability of the system did not occur. This is even more visible in the electricity sector where there is no storage. The “perfect” interruptions caused by Egyptian Vultures in Turkey's first 420 kW lines are one of the interesting events that have been the subject of academic publications.


However, everything is not so uncertain. It is an engineer's approach to consider the scientific projection of uncertainty as probability and to use probabilistic methods. We can think that probabilistic approaches with methods such as advanced computer technology and artificial intelligence will go a long way with big data. Looking at current technical advances, greater progress is expected in the next 10 years than in the past 100 years. This will also have some consequences.


How did the concept of energy security take shape in the past?


Energy security can be divided into three periods. If we could give a keyword to each of these periods:

1. First period: Diversification

2. Second period: Institutionalization

3. Third period: Foresight


When we consider these three periods together, foresight can already be seen as the most important part of all processes. Likewise, diversification and institutionalization. However, as of the periods, there are parts where some things come to the fore, while others lose their importance. Finally, energy is a necessity of human and machine activity. It contains all the methods that humans use to survive.


In the first period, as Daniel Yergin pointed out with reference to Churchill, “variety”, diversification is the main argument. Speaking of diversification, Churchill's switching of ships from coal to oil in England, one of the world's most important coal producing countries, was applauded today, but it was an irrational act at the time. Because coal is right next to it, at any time and under its control. On the other hand, oil came from Iran and other geographies.


So why did Churchill do this? For one reason: speed. British ships that switched to oil were gaining speed advantage over German ships. Of course, there were additional benefits such as coal storage and boiler burning. So, was it cost effective or cheap? No way.


We can find a projection of this in bringing natural gas to Turkey from Russia. In fact, if it is considered as a cost, instead of a system that would be cheaper if wood was burned, a rapid transition was made to another energy source, where the cleanliness and comfort of the cities were considered. We see the same emphasis on diversification in Turkey's natural gas development. When we look at the whole process, marketing future energy transformations as "cheap" creates obstacles in terms of social acceptance.


In the second period, we can bring it up to the European Coal and Steel Union, perhaps from the European Coal and Steel Union, to OPEC, IEA, IRENA, and perhaps in the last part, the European Union's "Energy Union" idea. So why did I name a special period in energy security as institutionalization? Because diversification brought a geographical dispersion, and this event started to touch many people with similar concerns. Some of them are producers (OPEC, GECF), some are consumers (IEA) and some are mixtures of them (IRENA, IEF etc.).


The main concern during this period is coordination. In institutionalization, it is essential to eliminate the information asymmetry by keeping the records of the knowledge, experience and lessons produced by humanity. Institutions that do not generally publish (which is gradual: statistical reports, plans, reports of lessons learned) cannot become institutionalized. For this reason, institutions such as the IEA and OPEC have monthly reports that affect the markets. Now the energy sector is huge and information is so fluid. It has to be somehow guided by the exchange of information.


The last period is the “Foresight” period, which started a little later in the 2010s. In many developing countries, institutions are looked upon as gods, i.e. they are tools that can prevent events and make history-altering movements. However, by nature, institutions work ex-post, that is, from behind and act with a foresight. There is a misconception that if there were the "right people" in these institutions, the institutions could have already made the right interventions. I call this the “plane crash paradigm”.


In the plane crash paradigm, we can solve that plane by approaching that if the pilot wasn't there, if he wasn't the tower personnel, the accident wouldn't have happened, then the culprit is the pilot or the tower attendant. This is convenience. Advanced methods look for "systemic offenders" rather than "human offenders". Because institutions that seek criminals do not see the structural problems and they think that everything will work very well when the "troubled person" leaves the system. However, this is a precursor to larger problems. A choice is required between short-term human blame and long-term systems design. For this reason, the last part of the "plane crash documentaries" describes the redesign of the processes and the establishment of structures that the system prevents even if that person makes that mistake.


Likewise, until the 2010s, the energy system was seen as a structure that resisted cyber-attacks and blackouts, and in a way repelled these threats with bullets. But we see that this arrogance has left its place to a modesty. In other words, we are entering a period where the system may somehow move away from its original balance, but how it will return to this balance is the basis of the security phenomenon. For this, it will be useful to look at the development in electricity. Because almost all of the net zero policies predict that half of the total consumption, that is, our future, will be electricity in 2050.


Canay Özden Schilling's book "The Current Economy Electricity Markets and Techno-Economics", in which she describes the electricity market development through the eyes of an anthropologist, has a different approach to the phases of the electricity market. From biological systems comes a stability approach to an engineering system. Fred C. Schweppe's "Homeostatic Utility Control", whose name we hardly pronounce, is perhaps a further definition of today's smart grid. Because basically we are trying to stabilize this steel and electron mass like a biological system.


Then, with a political intervention in the system, marketization efforts began. In fact, many things were not invented from scratch, although many theories have been available since the 1950s, it was uncertain whether this would apply to the electrical industry. A mechanical price formation actually misleads many people. The price naturally does not occur as designed in the electricity markets. The main thing is that thousands of handovers and transactions are uncontrolled.


For this reason, many people may think that they understand the pricing issue when they model the electricity market. For this reason, it can be recommended to try the oil price with similar models. Because oil prices are not determined by a regulation or regulation. In this field, which is completely determined by human and machine movements, we can only talk about approaches with financial movements that are getting complicated. For example, issues such as the effects of gamma in options on oil price movements can also be a serious determinant in price formation.


Finally, the electrical system models that were tried to be set up digitally with Excel spreadsheets, then the software, have evolved to a different point with the emphasis on "optimization". At this stage, which is called optimization in Turkish, whole system optimization was one of the most important goals. But it is important to combine optimization and the numerical shadow of physical reality on a macro-large scale.


Creating digital twins, which has been talked about for a long time, will also apply to the grid and the entire energy system. In fact, while the grid and energy system were modeled as digital flows in the 2000s, a world in which physical assets will be digitally twinned to cable connections due to effects such as wind and weather should not be seen far away in the upcoming period. As image quality improves with satellite technology, it may not be difficult to deal with the already existing topography data, perhaps with a few special flights.


That is, the concept of foresight goes beyond moving complex models beyond time t with the model. Maybe we can divide the new shaping of the concept of foresight into four main headings:

1. Recognizing that threatening events will increase (modest)

2. Advanced and second-to-second weather observation and local scale forecasting

3. Commissioning of new topology and automation-artificial intelligence systems for system balance

4. Reducing the recovery time from full collapse


Because the share of electricity in total energy will increase even more. So our life will become more dependent on electricity. Storage is transformative. But the "storage problems will end" approach will also take time. In fact, storage solves the most fundamental problem in energy security: Spatial and temporal control. For this reason, storage is vital in all energy sources. We are following the natural gas levels in Europe this winter, 5 major countries tried to respond to the rising oil prices by removing products from their stocks.


But the cyber security of storage systems will also be important, malicious control of these network tools, which have rapid spikes and decreases, can crash systems very quickly. Maybe it will be part of the subscription like storage, microcontroller structures, counter. But this still doesn't solve the whole system security issue.


Instead of the conclusion:


In a good article, it is essential that the discussion continues in the mind of the reader when the article is finished. But it may be necessary not to exaggerate. In energy security, artificial intelligence, cyber security, extreme weather events will be important agenda items with their positive or negative effects. Creating pools of ideas from today rather than waiting for the future will enrich the discussions. This article is also a contribution to this pool.