ISTANBUL -Producing electricity via coal-fired power plants receives a boost from the Energy Market Regulatory Agency as the agency approves large-scale projects to produce more than 100 megawatts of electricity per year. Environmentalists protest the government’s move, saying coal is too polluting and future energy needs should be meet by renewable resources
As Turkey grapples with environmental damage caused by its 15 existing coal-fired power plants, the construction of more such facilities is underway, with many planned for the country’s coasts.
The Energy Market Regulatory Agency, or EPDK, has approved applications for some of the 46 large-scale projects that will produce more than 100 megawatts of electricity per year, with paperwork for the rest proceeding on schedule. Experts say the use of coal, rather than renewable resources, to produce electricity goes against global trends and could compound the damage already caused by power plants in Turkey.
According to the environmental organization Greenpeace, the seven power plants planned for the Mediterranean province of Adana will harm the habitats of endangered species, including the Aleppo Pine tree (pinus halepensis) and the Loggerhead sea turtle (caretta caretta). Likewise, the five plants planned for the northwestern province of Çanakkale pose a great danger to the region’s wildlife and tourism.
Greenpeace Turkey Director Uygar Özesmi said coal-fired plants are the main cause of global warming, no matter where they are built, producing 41 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. "All research into trapping carbon has produced nothing practical," he said. "The earliest practical use of such research will be implemented sometime in the 2040s. And by then, alternative fuels will be much cheaper to use than carbon-based resources."
Because most of the 46 facilities planned for Turkey will run on imported coal, Özesmi said their construction "will also cause dependence on overseas resources." The Turkish public is mobilizing against the construction of such plants, with demonstrations already occurring in the Black Sea region and around İzmir. One EPDK official, who did not wish to be named, said the agency was only in charge of issuing licenses for such plants, not inspecting them for their environmental effects.
"Getting a license from us does not necessarily mean they will be given a positive report from the Environment Ministry or a building permit from the local government," the official said. Professor Tanay Sıdkı Uyar, the director of the New Technologies Research and Practice Center at Marmara University, said that 100 thermal plant tenders in the United States were canceled this year alone. "The much-talked-about carbon capture and storage technology, or CCS, has not become available yet," Uyar said, adding that he saw these types of power plants as one country sharing its pollution with the world.
The world will meet in Copenhagen in December to discuss what to do when the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions expires next year, Uyar said. "Every plant built in Turkey before then is like sweeping the carbon under the rug."
When the power plant in the Aegean town of Yatağan, in the province of Muğla, opened with much fanfare in 1976, it was seen as a sign of Turkey’s growing industrial might. Unfortunately, it took 30 years for the plant to get a functioning waste-gas-filtering system. Thousands of local residents have lodged complaints against the plant over the years, with the trials linked to the plant becoming one of the staple cases at the European Court of Human Rights. In the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş, a power plant operated without a purification system for 20 years despite complaints by locals, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The facility’s ash filters were broken for a decade, during which 15 million tons of unfiltered solid, liquid and gaseous waste destroyed the region’s farming industry and its underground waters.
Similarly, a plant in Muğla’s Gökova region put an end to efforts to develop the area as a major nature-tourism attraction.
According to a report released by Çukurova University in Adana, the coal-fired power plant in the area’s Yumurtalık region destroyed the local fishing industry. Area fishermen have filed complaints at the European Court of Human Rights.