The legislation that allowed coal-fired thermal plants to pollute air extended by 2,5 years by the Turkish Grand National Assembly by passing a law. After facing massive protests from public and environmental organizations, the president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vetoed the legislation and sent it back to the Assembly on December 2, 2019.
The necessity of installing filters on the chimneys of coal-fired power plants and other environmental regulations had been postponed four times since 2013. The last rule, which was squeezed into an omnibus bill, had delayed this process for another two and a half years. Intense debates in the media on the ongoing law reminded us that we should reconsider the environmental concerns caused by Turkish energy security, strategy, and production.
In a workshop organized by the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers of Turkey (TMMOB), Energy Study Group, in Aydın, on October 12, the president of the group, Oğuz Türkyılmaz claimed that: Turkey, especially in the recent years, has followed an energy policy, which aimed to cover the energy demand by new energy supplies, that is unplanned and considered only the interest of the capitalist groups. With the losses in intermission and distribution, possible energy saving opportunities had been ignored. To meet energy demand, Turkey mostly used exported energy resources, invested in fossil fuels and expensive tools, and dependence level on energy reached a severe degree.
TMMOB reported that in 2018, the carbon emission related to fossil fuels (only coal, oil, and gas) increased to 390,2 million tones, and it increased by 41% in the last ten years. Turkish Natural Life Protection Foundation (WWF) stated that we pay a high price because of the air pollution in their declaration that is published after the legislation passed from the Assembly. According to WWF, more than half of the Turkish cities have air pollution, and it caused 7-times more lives than traffic accidents in 2017.
Additionally, in the WWF’s declaration, the Black Report that is prepared by the Right to Have Clean Air Platform had been cited. According to the Black Report, if Turkey had followed the guidelines of the World Health Organization, 13% of the related deaths could have been prevented.
In 2017, while the primary energy supply of Turkey was 145.3 toe (a ton of oil equivalent), 88,1% of this was produced through fossil fuels, and the share of imports was 75.7. Direct and indirect incentives to coal producers exceed the resources allocated for renewable energy by multiples and coal production encouraged by rent concerns. In a study of Sevil Acar and her colleagues from Boğaziçi University found that the incentives to coal producers reached to $730 million ($11/MWh). Our projection study with Sevil Acar also suggests that if these incentives stop, the carbon emission can be reduced by 5% in 2030, and losses in GDP because of this policy can remain at a tolerable level.
According to data obtained from the TMMOB workshop, we know that the difference between installed capacity and production increases since 2009. The program published by the Presidency states in 2018, the available production capacity of the plants was 450 TWh, while the production was 307 TWh. In 2019, the potential was projected as 466 TWh, while the output was projected as 317 TWh. These numbers show that the plants can produce 47% more electricity than current levels. As a result, in electricity demand projections, the annual level and the future needs were overrated, which caused unnecessary plants to be built, where the public sources were transferred to private companies through high purchasing guarantees.
Same TMMOB report also warns that if the policies do not update radically, there will be no decrease in carbon emission on the short and medium terms wherein the primary energy consumption, the dependence level is 84,7% in 2018, in today’s world which the oil, gas, and coal monopolies are the deciders. To avoid the consequences of climate change, in energy production, the priority and the focus should be on renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.
Finally, the TMMOB report suggests that extracting, refining, transmission, and distribution process of energy sources should be done under a plan that protects the public interest. The need to transfer the energy sector from the monopoly of private companies to a public plane and to turn to a low carbon emission-based economy based on renewable resources constitutes a prerequisite for the struggle against the climate crisis.