The hidden confessions in Turkey's strategic energy plan

The Energy Ministry’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan tells us a lot about the government's intentions. It is obviously a plan that still insists on coal and hydroelectric power policies, and that has solar and wind energy only as an accessory. The climate crisis is not even mentioned.

The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources just issued its 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. I would have liked to have gone over the 85-page report in detail, but instead I will review its most important features so that even those who are not familiar with the subject will be informed about the policies they will encounter in the future.

Here is the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan in seven points.

1. Do the work first, then do the planning. The plan covers 2019 through 2023, but it was issued in May 2020. This means that the work is done first, then a plan is issued afterward to cover the activities. The planning mentality that's common across Turkey is seen here as well. 

 2. There are still more hydroelectric power plants (HES). During the period before the plan, 28,291 MW of power was generated by hydroelectric plants. With that many HES projects, there was no more natural stream water left in the country. Even so, they have still have set a target to add a further capacity of 3,746 MW of energy from HES plants by 2023.

3. There is still more coal and more coal power plants. We know about the situation in places in Turkey like Zonguldak, Çanakkale, Elbistan, and Şırnak that suffer from air and environmental pollution due to coal power plants. We also know the situation in the world due to climate change. Before the strategic plan was made, local coal power plants had a capacity of 10,204 MW. Even though the problems they create are obvious, the plan is to increase coal power production by 4,460 MW by 2023. 

4. Record unused production. When you process the figures in the plan, you see that 89,250 MW of installed capacity will reach 110,000 MW by 2023. In 2019, Turkey produced an average of 33,000 MW per hour of electricity. Its maximum production capacity was around 45,000 MWh. In other words, while the excess capacity was 43,000 MW according to the figures from the period before the plan was issued, the excess will now be 65,000 MW. This means Turkey can produce the required average power of 33,000 MW and the maximum instantaneous production of 45,000 MW, but overall, there will be a record unutilized production capacity of 110,000MW.

Capacity before the plan (2018), target capacity (2023) and average production based on 2019 data.

5. The climate isn’t changing. Climate change is not included in the plan. It is once referred to in a title: “Turkey’s Climate Change Adaption Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2023).” But that’s it. It doesn’t appear at all in the plan’s actions, strategies, words or policies. 

6. There is telekinesis in productivity. The biggest enemy of so much wasted production and excess capacity is of course energy productivity. For this reason, the policies about energy productivity in the text have quite a low profile. There is even a target in the plan that says that “work will be undertaken to raise public awareness about energy productivity.” Under that section, there is an action: “An awareness index of energy productivity will be formed and published.” Thus, through an “awareness index,” they will create business for the awareness sector. Like telekinesis for electricity, they will raise people’s awareness in order to activate energy productivity. But on the other hand, they will not touch unproductive buildings such as shopping malls and residences.

7. Disinformation against criticism. For the first time, a risk called “misleading or biased news that appears in local and national press on mining and nuclear energy” has been included in the plan. In order to prevent disinformation, there is a line about the “better use of strategic communication methods and tools in order to prevent disinformation.” Could the misleading and biased news be, for instance, the Chernobyl disaster? Or could it be that the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant project’s foundation cracked during the construction stage, or could it be the climate crisis that erupted due to the extreme use of coal, oil and natural gas? Or can we say that, instead of the incentives given for coal and nuclear energy, we could use those same funds to create a cheaper and healthier energy system that protects nature and society? That’s why 2.8 million lira have been allocated in the budget for objections to the plan.

The energy minister’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan — which came out in mid-2020 — tells us a lot. It is obviously a plan with energy productivity that’s just for show, that still insists on coal and hydroelectric power policies, and that has solar and wind energy only as an accessory. The climate crisis is not even mentioned. It’s a plan that doesn’t want to see nature or society, but has to see it. We can see that objections on a technical and scientific basis are included on the level of the Strategic Plan for the first time, but they are defined as disinformation. In contrast with this, allocating resources for propaganda projects is quite meaningful. 

The 2019-2023 Strategic Plan by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources explains many things, just as it includes many important confessions.