Dear Readers,

You might consider that only MD (Medical Doctors) are to be appointed as Minister of Health, the minister of justice should be graduate of the law school, artists/ writers should be the Minister of Culture, etc., In fact, you might say, it is better not be. Because these ministerial tasks are management tasks. The minister is to pick good managers and technical staff of knowledgeable people, making them more suitable for the job of executive power. Thus, both the technical issues can be carried out by qualified experienced educated people, as well as with technical competence of political preferences and situation thanks to the ability to people have come to this position.

This way of thinking is not true for energy. We have seen from past practice, the Energy Minister must be a engineer. The minister should have seen power plants, worked in their operation, moreover must have worked in the investment phase. Preferably, the minister should speak foreign languages first English, also Russian / French / Arabic. If the minister gets post graduate degree on International Relations/Law, it gets even better. Most importantly, the minister of energy should have taken thermodynamics courses in undergraduate years.

Our current Energy Minister will not participate in the 7th June general elections because of the rule not to exceed 3-consecutive periods. I personally appreciate the technical competence of our Minister as an experienced professional Electrical Engineer who is a graduate of prestigious Istanbul Technical University. When I met in a public meeting, I asked him “Have you received Thermodynamics course during your college education?” he confirmed, “Yes, I got, I got the course from the most important legend professor of the department”. I was very pleased.

Earlier that technical prerequisite was not necessary for former ministers of energy. Technical competence and professional experience were necessary for the UnderSecretary. Our public administration system was built that way.Formerly Minister in change, did not change the Undersecretary at all.Undersecretary was not a party member. Undersecretaries, were memory and the brain of the Ministry. Ministers come and leave but Undersecretary was entrenched. Politician Ministers would say their political preferences to the Undersecretary of the Ministry and the rest, they had no interference.

Nowadays, ministers have appropriate education and necessary experience, and when they are appointed, they try to learn everything related to the ministry. Minister takes every decision based on business and politics, as well as they take the necessary initiatives. This is not the case for our local environment, but that is the tendency everywhere. Public- bureaucrats, prefer the ministers with no interference, but this is not good for the energy markets.

USA Secretary of Energy assignments also experienced our development stages. At first, politicians with law degree were appointed as secretary of energy. Now Obama administration appoints scientists outside from politics. Former US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, has received the Nobel Prize in Physics, he was a professor at Stanford University. Present secretary of energy Dr. Ernest Moniz, is a professor in MIT Energy Institute.

In Germany, the Federal Minister in charge of “Economy and Energy” Minister is Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the chairman of the coalition partner SPD party. His profession is Grammar School (elementary school) teacher.Assignment is based on politics for coalition. On the other hand, Chancellor Angela Merkel has Ph.D. on “Quantum Chemistry” based on thermodynamic calculations. Could you imagine a prime minister with a Ph.D. degree on a scientific subject which mainly depends on thermodynamic calculations?

Cases are probably very very rare on special cases where an engineer is appointed as “Minister of Health” or “Minister of Justice”. Such a person can not be expected to be successful in that assignment area. Could you appoint a lawyer or a medical doctor to Chairman of the Central Bank? No. Since they would have no financial education to understand the financial details. But in the past anyone could be Energy Minister in our country.

Graduates of Law School became Energy Minister in the past, and nobody asked “why?” They learned a lot on energy problems during the their Ministry period. But they had limited contribution and initiative to energy issues.

Thermodynamics course is given mandatory to undergraduate students of mechanical, metallurgy, chemistry and environment departments in our technical universities. Other engineering students may take as elective course.

It is thought to be very difficult course, however if the student attend class lectures without any absenteeism, completes the daily homework regularly on time, studies regularly every day, it does not at all difficult for students working in a systematic way. Those leaving everything to the day before the exam can not be successful in any course for sure.

Those who take thermodynamics courses during their undergraduate university education, should receive public office responsible from energy.Public duties are not a place to get education. If a politician is appointed to be responsible from such a ministry, that politician should have enough university education as well as professional market experience both taken in advance.

We are not responsible to teach each newcomer to energy markets that “volt” is not “watt”, there is no such concept as “terravolt”, “megabyte” is not “megawatt”. We should not teach them the differences of thermal power plants and renewable energy sources, nor details of Kyoto protocol. Stadium “tribune” and steam “turbine” are not the same thing.

Newcomer should know current EIA criteria before coming to the public task. Public decisions should not ignore environmental sensitivities. Wind and solar energy can not replace base load electricity generation in the long term since they have intermittent production, and they need new special and expensive high-voltage transmission line investments, with expensive “Pumped -Storage Hydro Electricity (PSHE) for load balancing, however those special new investments and their operations are not so cheap.

Nuclear power plants are basically thermal power plants. Our local market could not build a nuclear power plant nor a thermal power plant in last 50-years. Basic design, major pressure parts fabrications are always curtailed due to lack of local finance. So we are forced to buy obsolete, old technology, low overall efficiency thermal power plants with low availability since they are financed by Eastern Europe or East Asia suppliers, supported by their exim banks.

Our new minister of energy should know the global warming, environmental impact assessment norms, and should care that fossil fired thermal power plants should not be build on agricultural land, forests, land with olive trees, ancient archeological sites, nor close to tourism regions. Those environmentalist slogans, “Wind- solar energy are enough for us”, or “Nuclear energy solves all our energy needs, if we could start construction in 1970’s then we should be building our own plants by ourselves by now”, or “There is oil in our land, but foreigners are preventing us to explore and utilize,” or “Shale gas reserves will solve our energy needs in next 5-years”, or “We found oil in our offshore BlackSea region”, are all urban legends with no basis at all.

We must build our fossil fuel firing thermal power plants by ourselves completely, covering basic- detail designs, fabrication and site erection. We are suffering from unemployment, and on the other hand we allow foreign semi qualified workers, convicts, soldiers working in power plant constructions.

EIA reports are to be prepared in detail, submitted properly and evaluated carefully. In order to get EIA reports approved and certified for a new power plant, investors, commit and promise everything to the local people, employment, prosperity, low emission, no pollution in land sea, air, but when they receive the approval, they forget all their promises. It is not just in our local environment, but all over the world. Investment control mechanism should be continuous, not only though public servants, but also by local NGO establishments. From time to time, we notice political pressures for positive EIA outcome to approve investments. How do we approve so much ever increasing approvals to build imported fossil fuel firing new thermal power plants, whereby all these expensive, floating price, unreliable fuel price, increases our Current Account Deficiency (CAD) which is currently at intolerable levels. How do we give investor license to proceed?

Energy in economic policy is a serious and crucial business. Energy investments, energy studies, petroleum explorations, pipeline construction, domestic coal production, scientific and economical exploiting of domestic fuel sources, finding finance, finding jobs are all very serious issues. We need to have experienced well educated ministers, and their public staff for our mutual prosperity.

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About the Author

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.
He can be contacted at halukdireskeneli@gmail.com