Undoubtedly, one of the greatest blessings on earth is water. The power of water was carried to different dimensions with the discovery of electricity in the 18th and 19th centuries. The increasing energy needs, especially due to the developments in the 20th century, called for more investment in this area. In the past century, we've seen a number of investments in large dams that can meet growing water and electricity needs.
Hydropower is the production of electrical energy from the power of water accumulating in a dam and flowing over turbines. Here, the kinetic energy generated by the movement of water is harnessed. By means of turbines, this energy is first converted into mechanical and then electrical energy.
Today, fossil fuels are used extensively in the production of energy that is used in almost every field. As a byproduct of this, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, which can increase the temperature of our world and cause pollution. In the sixth evaluation report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was introduced on Aug. 9, it is stated that global greenhouse gases have increased at an unprecedented rate, resulting in a 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in global temperature compared to the preindustrial period.
According to the assessments of the International Energy Agency, at least 66% of the greenhouse gases formed on a global basis originates from energy production and use activities. Electricity production is also responsible for one-third of greenhouse gases. Since 1970, there has been a threefold increase in greenhouse gases from electrical power generation.
The latest IPCC report states that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced in order to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, which is the main target of the Paris Agreement. At this point, the energy sector, which is the most important source of greenhouse gas, has special importance. In this respect, there is a marked trend toward renewable energy sources in the world.
Renewable energy sources both have very low environmental footprints and are essentially nature-friendly applications with their zero-emission feature in terms of greenhouse gas. The low carbon footprints of hydroelectric power plants (HEPP) are equivalent to the carbon footprint of bicycle transportation, which is the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation. In other words, the carbon dioxide emissions caused by 1 kWh of energy production are almost equal to the carbon dioxide emissions caused by 1 kilometer (half a mile) of cycling.
According to the evaluations of the "2020 Hydroelectric Status Report" published by the International Hydroelectricity Association (IHA), if there were thermal power plants instead of the existing HEPPs in the world, 4 billion tons more greenhouse gas would have been emitted annually. Again, we would be breathing in at least 150 million tons more air pollutants annually.
According to the evaluations of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the total hydroelectric installed power on a global scale has exceeded 1,330 gigawatts (GW). HEPPs at 47.5% constitute almost half of the installed power of all renewable resources. Worldwide, 4,000 terawatt-hours of electrical energy is obtained from this installed power of water on an annual basis. This value corresponds to an amount that can meet the needs of 1 billion people.
In 2020, on the basis of HEPP investments, a total of 21 GW installed power was added worldwide. According to IRENA data, while China made the biggest contribution to this increase with 12 GW, Turkey became the second-largest growth country in the world in 2020 with an installed power increase of 2.5 GW.
In Turkey, a country that is developing and growing day by day, energy has become an inseparable part of our lives. In order to meet the increasing consumer demand, our installed power capacity is constantly increasing. According to the data of the Ministry of Energy, the total installed power of Turkey has exceeded 98,000 megawatts (MW) with an increase of 3 1/2 times in the last 20 years.
There is a tendency toward renewable resources to reduce foreign dependency and to combat climate change effectively. According to the Turkey Electricity Transmission Company's (TEIAŞ) July 2021 data, 53% of Turkey's installed power consists of renewable resources.
Energy is produced from many renewable sources such as water, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. The nuclear power plant, which is in the environment and climate-friendly clean energy class, continues to work since it does not produce any emissions even though it is not renewable. This type of energy, which is widely used in the world, has a quality that can eliminate fossil fuel dependence by providing security of supply in energy. The biggest handicap of renewable resources is that they cannot provide energy production continuously.
Can energy be stored? Most of us would say "yes" to this question. As an example, we point to batteries. But there are also much larger energy storage systems. Pumped Storage HEPPs (PdHES) are one of them.
According to IHA evaluations, the world's largest energy storage systems are PdHES. In other words, they are considered to be the world's largest batteries. PdHES represents 94% of the energy stored in the world. Due to these features, they are considered by the International Energy Agency as technologies that can lead to 2050 goals and help humanity reach the "Net Zero" target.
The PdHES system is considered a kind of energy storage. For this, you will have two water reservoirs with a height difference between them. Water is pumped from a water reservoir at a lower elevation to a higher one. Energy is then obtained via the operation of the turbines by transferring the pumped water from the upper reservoir to the lower reservoir again. In other words, we are feeding the above source in this system.
The water pumped from the reservoir at the lower elevation to the reservoir at the higher elevation is used when the energy demand is at its peak, thereby eliminating the potential deficits in the energy supply and creating a secure supply. When energy is less needed, the water is pumped back and stored for later use when needed.
There is a PdHES installed power capacity of around 150 GW in the world. There is a projection of a 50% capacity increase by 2030. The first steps were taken in 2011 in Turkey for this system, of which Japan is the leader and which has been used around the world for more than 50 years. The system to be built on Eskişehir Gökçekaya Dam is expected to be commissioned in 2025. The increase in precipitation in rainy areas, which is one of the effects of climate change, and the decrease in precipitation in dry areas will increase the need for such systems in terms of energy supply security.
Contrary to what is claimed, HEPPs have many benefits. This emission-free production method does not pollute the two most important receiving environments, water or air. It's not completely carbon-free, of course. The production of materials such as cement used in the first construction phase and the methane gas released by the living things growing at the bottom of the dam are important emission factors. However, they have the lowest carbon footprint, along with nuclear energy, in generating electricity on a unit basis throughout their life cycle.
HEPPs offer different benefits besides offering clean energy, especially HEPPs with dams or reservoirs. They also allow aquaculture by creating an artificial lake. It also provides great support to the economy and the food sector by supplying water for food production that can benefit both domestic and international markets. According to the data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, aquaculture in Keban Dam has reached an annual capacity of 30,000 tons.
In addition, reservoir HEPPs also have tourism potential with boat tours and other sports activities.
Another advantage of HEPPs is that they can be reactivated in a very short time and operate at full capacity. While it takes four to five hours for a thermal power plant that has been deactivated for any reason to be restarted and reach full capacity, it takes only three to five minutes for HEPPs.
Although the initial investment cost is high, it has a more economical structure on a cumulative basis. Dam HEPPs, such as Keban and Atatürk, which have the largest HEPP installed capacity in the country, have been investments that have paid for themselves in a short period of four to seven years.
It is not correct to say that there are no negative effects at all. Although the displacement of the water in a short distance poses a risk in river-type ones, lifelines are left for the continuation of the life there. However, the effects here are minimal, especially when compared to energy production methods using fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, Turkey is witnessing its greatest disasters in recent years. The country has seen the devastating effects of climate change more and more every day. First, the mucilage surrounding the Marmara, then the mega forest fires that started in the south and the flood disasters that destroyed the north of the country.
The Western Black Sea region has again faced a flood disaster on a scale not seen since 1998. Unfortunately, more than 80 people lost their lives. The biggest loss was experienced in the Bozkurt district of Kastamonu. Turkey, in a spirit of unity, on the one hand, removes debris and on the other hand, questions, "I wonder if we can save another life?" The claim that the cause of the flood was a HEPP whose dam burst made its way to the top of the agenda.
There are two HEPPs in the region: one located at a distance of more than 30 kilometers (nearly 20 miles) from the Bozkurt district and another located closer. Both are river-type HEPPs. In other words, HEPPs where there is no reservoir contrary to what is claimed. There is an accumulation area with a height of only 4 meters (13 feet) and a width of 12 meters at the location of the HEPP closer to Bozkurt. However, the amount of water accumulated here is equivalent to the amount of water in several Olympic pools.
Therefore, it seems ridiculous to claim that the flood, which turned the district into a lake 5 meters deep, came from here. The amount of water available in the HEPP is not even one ten-thousandths of the amount that washed through the district.
However, the amount of precipitation falling in the region was quite high. According to the data of the General Directorate of Meteorology, the amount of precipitation that fell in the region over the two to three days was 454 millimeters (nearly 18 inches)
The increase in the intensity and amount of precipitation is an effect of global climate change, which is the biggest problem facing our world. We have to consider it as a parameter in planning. We are now entering a period in which the events that are supposed to happen once in 50 years will take place every two years. The latest IPCC report has once again demonstrated this fact. Therefore, we need to take urgent steps to adapt to climate change.
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In fact, Turkey plays an active role in the fight against climate change. The most obvious indicator of this is the transformation in energy, which is the sector that causes the largest greenhouse gas emissions.
Turkey's renewable energy installed power has grown threefold in the last 20 years. According to IPCC assessments, Turkey, located in the Mediterranean Basin, which will be heavily impacted by the negative effects of climate change, should increasingly continue its efforts in this direction. However, there are always opponents to the projects, just like any other investments.
It is a stark contrast when the same people say that the country should switch to clean energy as part of the fight against climate change. They both oppose investment and at the same time say that we need to shift to renewable energy and leave fossil fuels behind. It's a total dilemma.
However, Turkey needs constructive criticism. Of course, there will be shortcomings on the long path ahead. At this point, I expect the opposition to support, not hinder, these much-needed investments. I expect them to applaud the truth but also to let the government know if there is any missing. After all, we all use this energy. We all breathe this air. We all drink this water. And we live together in this country.
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