BY NIGAR GOKMEN
Regardless of the continents or regions in which we live, we all feel and see in our everyday lives that climate change is real. It is not the iceberg melting in faraway poles; it is floods and fires in our very own cities. If we do not act soon, there is no doubt we will face widespread destruction.
The transition to clean energy is at the center of discussions over climate change. Carbon emissions released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for energy are accepted as the primary reason for climate change. If the transition of the energy sector provides a cleaner and greener option, then this will play a significant role in decreasing carbon emission levels.
It goes without saying that reducing our energy consumption in order to reduce carbon emissions is not an option due to the increasing population and technological developments. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, would help; indeed, it is a must now. However, it cannot win over the population increase. Global demand for power is estimated to grow by 50% by 2040. Therefore, the only option left is to reduce carbon emissions due to energy consumption by switching to alternative sources.
Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy resources for electricity generation and energy efficiency have the potential to achieve around 90% of the required carbon emission reductions. Based on this potential, governments and international regulators are pushing strict carbon neutral rules and implementations. The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries, aims to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit the global temperature increase in this century to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, while pursuing means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The European Union additionally declared its Green Deal, which aims to reduce carbon emission levels by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and be carbon neutral by 2050.
We also see increasing incentives provided to renewable energy resources or additional financial burdens for carbon emission release in order to channel investments toward a greener energy sector. In this regard, the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) offers a unique way to fight carbon emissions, as this measure aims to avoid carbon leakage and support a green economy on a global scale. This policy will come into force transitionally, with the first phase expected in 2023 and full implementation by 2026, as it requires importers to purchase CBAM certificates to make up for the lower costs they acquire by avoiding the EU’s carbon pricing rules. In addition, market players can use additional support instruments such as license-exempt facility opportunities, power purchase agreements, financial derivatives and green certificates.
However, it is obvious that achieving carbon emission targets will require collective power, including smart technologies improving energy efficiency and energy storage. Cutting-edge technologies would help to increase the share of renewables in the energy sector. Storage technology, which was previously only employed in niche markets, can now be broadly used as the average cost of batteries has fallen dramatically. This would allow renewable energy-based power plants to increase reliability and balance, which would help to increase the number of renewable energy facilities. Smart grid technologies and digitization of the grid, on the other hand, would reduce losses caused operational inefficiencies.
Based on these latest developments, increases in the share of renewables in the electricity generation mix are expected to push to 30% in 2021 globally, based on the International Energy Agency’s estimates, the highest rate ever. The share of renewables in Turkey is also increasing in line with global trends and is expected to reach at least 30% in electricity generation mix by 2023.
In addition to technological developments, governments should also pave the way for the operation of renewable energy-based facilities through appropriate regulations and implementations regarding permitting and acceptance procedures.
Thomas Edison foresaw the potential in and requirement of using renewable energy. “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy,” he said. “What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Energy transition is now our only key to implement what he said almost a century ago.