ISTANBUL, Turkey—Turkey is finally getting serious about building a domestic carbon trading scheme, and many Western governments and carbon market analysts worldwide are watching to see if it will follow through on its pledges.
"The government has been dragging its feet for quite some time on this," said Simone Ruiz, European policy director at the International Emissions Trading Association, a trade group.
As an emerging economy, Turkey isn't required by any international agreements to reduce carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, despite being one of the world's biggest polluters. But after a successful run in the thinly traded voluntary carbon market, the government has signaled serious interest in creating a mandatory carbon trade at home.
The chief motivation is economic—to eventually become a major international supplier of carbon offsets and make Turkish businesses more globally competitive—but officials say carbon trading will also encourage more renewable energy production in its fossil fuel-dominated electricity system.
In a first step, Turkey plans to release legislation by the end of 2011 to build its capacity for monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions data—a system known as MRV. "This new MRV focus has come as a very good surprise," said Ruiz.
The MRV law will take effect in 2014 and will allow the government to track about half of Turkey's emissions using rules similar to those in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), the world's largest carbon cap and emissions-trading program, or "cap and trade." The scheme sets a limit on global warming emissions and allows utilities and other emitters to trade pollution permits among themselves.
Turkey's carbon-regulation program could be linked to Europe's—when, and if, it opens.
For now the timeline and form of the scheme are still very much up in the air. Under Turkey's notoriously vague 2011 National Climate Change Action plan, the government must create cap-and-trade "infrastructure" by 2015—but it's not clear how binding this mandate is and what is expected to happen beyond MRV.
ISTANBUL, Turkey—At the end of June, Henry Puna, prime minister of the Cook Islands, a 90-square-mile archipelago in the South Pacific, traveled more than 11,000 miles on an unusual fact-finding mission to Turkey's Bozcaada island in the Aegean Sea.
Puna came to see Bozcaada's hospital and the house of its governor — two of the only buildings in the world partially powered by hydrogen-generated electricity. The unique prototype technology, which sounds like a back-to-the-future experiment, has been churning out zero-emissions power for the past few months.
At the governor's house a 20-kilowatt rooftop solar array and a free-standing 30-kilowatt wind turbine generate clean electricity, which is run through an electrolyzer that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen gas gets compressed and stored in tanks on the island and is later converted back into electricity whenever extra power is needed. The gas can also fuel hydrogen cars or vessels.
Currently, Bozcaada's system supplies all the electricity at both buildings, as well as a boat and golf cart. Combined, it's equivalent to powering about 20 households in Turkey.
That minuscule amount is emblematic of the uphill battle that hydrogen technologies face in becoming a solution to reckon with in the contest for alternative fuels. Still, experts say the facilities on the small Aegean outpost, 175 miles southwest of Istanbul, illustrate some of the more promising uses of hydrogen as an energy carrier — especially its potential to fill crucial niches within a larger clean energy economy.
ANTALYA, Turkey—Turkey's weak policy support for solar power hasn't stopped the sun-soaked southern city of Antalya from forging ahead with plans to exploit its solar resource — and to encourage other local governments to follow suit.
In April, Antalya opened its long-awaited "Solar House," the first step in its push to become Turkey's first and only solar city.
The environmental education center and renewable energy showcase boasts 24 one-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) panels, among other clean energy solutions such as a windmill and a track that generates power from bicycles.
The model house cost about $600,000 and was 90 percent funded by Turkish companies and 10 percent by the United Nations Development Program. It will produce and store all the energy it consumes and feed excess power back into the grid — though it won't profit from doing so.
The country's energy authority doesn't yet buy surplus electricity from small producers of solar power. This is partly why the cost of installing solar panels remains prohibitive for nearly all Antalya residents, local observers say.
"We need to show the Turkish people how we can produce solar energy, because it's a very new concept for most Turks," Mustafa Akaydın, the mayor of Antalya, told SolveClimate News in an interview.
ISTANBUL—Turkey's first-ever nuclear power plant is about to be built in the Southeastern town of Akkuyu, more than three decades after the government first licensed the site.
But in the wake of the Japan crisis, opponents of the reactor are once again cautioning the government to drop the project.
"I'm not against nuclear power," said Tolga Yarman, a professor in the nuclear engineering department of Istanbul's Okan University, and one of the original nuclear engineers who signed off on the Akkuyu site license in 1976. "I'm simply against ignorant nuclear planning."
In explaining his reversal, Yarman told SolveClimate News: "The conditions of the area — as we know them — are completely different now, and new criteria have evolved."
The reactor, to be majority-owned by Russia's Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, would lie 16 miles from the Ecemis fault line where the Eurasian and African tectonic plates meet. When the license was issued in 1976, the fault was believed to be inactive. But studies published in science journals in the decades since have shown it to be active.
ISTANBUL—At the end of January, Turkey's fledgling geothermal energy industry attracted its biggest investor yet: Italian renewable energy giant Enel Green Power.
It marked the first time a large foreign firm committed to tapping into that nation's geothermal reserves. But local experts say it could be risky business even for an energy pro like Enel, in part because in Turkey many government permits for geothermal drilling contain no geothermal assets at all.
Will Enel be a successful pioneer in what some experts in Turkey say is a poorly managed sector?
The multinational corporation, which has approximately 800 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity worldwide, partnered with Turkish energy company Meteor, which held 142 exploration licenses for areas in western Turkey.
Under their agreement, permits were transferred to Enel at a "nominal cost" so the firm could fund the exploration, said Ruggero Bertani, manager of Enel's geothermal business development.
On Nov. 14, after working for ten days to convert their mosque to run on solar power, residents of a village in the Turkish district of Akkuyu assembled outside the building and unfurled a banner that read, “The sun is rising on Akkuyu.”
It was a bright moment in what has been an otherwise discouraging year for Büyükeceli, a picturesque Mediterranean village in Akkuyu. In July, the Turkish government authorized Russia to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in Büyükeceli. Averse to the risks posed by the plant, Büyükeceli locals asked the government to let them build a photovoltaic panel array instead.
When the government rejected that proposal, the people took matters into their own hands and installed a 2.25 kilowatt-capacity system on their mosque — enough to meet all of its energy needs, and then some.
Editor's Note: This is the second of two parts. You can read the first part here.
Haluk Direskeneli says he's “an engineer, not an environmentalist.” But he's been threatened with a lawsuit for criticizing Turkish energy investors who disregard the environment, as several environmentalists who have opposed power plants have been lately.
An energy consultant and member of the Chamber of Mechanical Engineers in Ankara, Turkey's capital, Direskeneli says that he doesn't object to power plants as long as they follow environmental regulations.
But after he published an article on weaknesses in the licensing process for new power plants in Turkey, he was told to retract it—or prepare for a lawsuit.
Editor's note: This the first installment in a two-part series.
Ask Turks to name the most beautiful natural places in their country, and they’ll almost inevitably mention Yalova: a small province of resort towns along the southern shore of the Marmara Sea.
Just an hour away from Istanbul by ferry, Yalova’s population of about 200,000 is sustained by its tourism industry. Thousands of visitors flock to the region each summer, drawn by natural wonders such as the Yalova thermal springs. Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, built a private pavilion there.
But today, a different kind of thermal presence is concerning the residents of Yalova.
On August 6, the citizens of Turkey consumed more electricity in one day than ever before, at a record rate of 0.39 kilowatts per person, in large part because extremely hot temperatures had pushed air conditioner usage to new levels.
The Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources expects installed power capacity to double by 2020 to meet growing demand. That means 100% growth in the power sector in less than 10 years.
Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yıldız, in a speech the day after the new record was set, heralded the news. "Turkey has overcome the economic crisis experienced last year," he said, and took comfort in the increasing energy consumption as a symbol of vigorous economic growth.
But in the modern world order, where political autonomy, membership in elite markets and national security are tied to controlling fossil fuel consumption and lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, does it still make sense to celebrate the growth of Turkey's appetite for energy?
Not all Turks think so.
Last March, the Texas State Board of Education approved controversial language in the curriculum requiring teachers to cast doubt on human contributions to climate change. Now, more than one year later, it appears that rule is being largely ignored by educators across the state, a SolveClimate examination has found.
In fact, dozens of inquiries failed to turn up one science teacher in Texas whose approach to the subject of climate change has been at all affected by the amendment to the state science curriculum. The standard has also done nothing to turn students against the consensus view of man-made global warming, according to educators.
Some even said that their students are more receptive than ever to the established science.
"It's too 'in the news' for it to go away," said Paul Caggiano, an environmental science teacher at St. Pius X High School in Houston. "When I ask a kid to do a current events report, they're not going to come up with a skeptical view of climate change. They're going to see it for what it is."
Still, as the scientific consensus continues to build worldwide, skeptics of global warming show no sign of giving up their fight against teaching the mainstream view in classrooms in Texas, and across the United States.