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The Steps for a Realistic Green Transformation - Barış Sanlı

It is never easy. The transformation of something is not just another target to achieve. But it is a terra incognita. The approach is very important. If you assume this new voyage as a pilgrimage to holy lands, well, that isn’t easy either. The expectations will shape the speed of transformation.

The grave mistake is to create an atmosphere of optimism for the green transition. This will echo in the consumers' minds as "a better world" where energy will be cheaper, more abundant, and cleaner. This may not be the intention of the dominant forces, but they are not correcting this skewed expectation. The gratitude of the masses is more important now. But it may backfire.

The biggest hurdle in the green transformation is the growing environmental movement. They have good intentions. But the environmental movement's decisive aim is to leave nature as it is or better than today. Energy is allocating some resources for human development, which may be used for other natural elements. Practically, any energy change in any place is a disturbance for this place, even for solar energy.

Historically, the strengthening of environmental movements has been tamed by price hikes. The high price of energy shifts the consumer back to realism. Since consumers' original expectation is to have abundant, cheaper, cleaner energy, expensive energy is a big disappointment. It also tames generations in two ways: by teaching conservation and the dangers of dreaming.

The current green shift in energy is due to solar. Germany and China have created and scaled already existing technologies. The same didn't happen with the wind yet. In storage technology, we should wait for solid-state batteries. But practically, we do not have the technologies to have a full-scale transformation economically. We have to be careful. My pillars for the transformation's initial steps are not unprecedented. But here they are:

The first pillar is to reduce the red tape for wind and solar. Governments should put two targets for cutting red tape. The maximum time for solar permissions should be six months. It should be 18 months for wind. It has to be from a central, specialized dispute mechanism to be solved. Otherwise, no one wants a kindergarten in its backyard. Should we respect this? If I was a fatalist, my answer might be different.

The second pillar is to overbuild these resources. The third one is electromobility. The fourth one is nuclear or other net-zero baseload technologies. Closing coal plants will not work since it will create moral hazards because governments have to pay these plants for closing. It is like paying people to stop dumping waste into the sea. You have to let coal generation be uneconomic. To achieve this, you have plenty of low-cost renewables. This will be less costly.

The other issue is grid strengthening measures. Electrification of the system is not easy. But maybe cheaper than hydrogen networks. This will certainly increase the grid-related costs in consumer bills. The problem is the structure in which the grid institutions are managed. They have the be top-notch drivers of this transformation. State-owned grids are failing. We need new, open-minded, innovative grid institutions.

But the fundamental pillar is telling the truth to the consumer. People do not forget bad memories. If this becomes the first net-zero crisis of the modern world, there may not be a second one. China is probably increasing coal plants in India and the rest of Asia. But they keep publicizing their green targets far away.

There is a new wave of green wailing: put the green targets on the table build more fossil plants under the table. This is pretty easy because most green transformation news is publicized by desk-based research with Google and Excel. So they cut the relation between the internet and field.

Friend or foe, everyone is an expectation engineer now; telling the truth has never been harder. But consumers had to know. It is the end of cheap energy for years to come.


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