might think that only an MD (Medical Doctor) should be appointed as
minister of health, that the minister of justice should be a graduate
of law school, that an artist/writer should be the minister of
culture, etc. In fact, others might say that this isn’t the case
because, in the end, ministerial tasks are management tasks.
Ministers should pick good managers and surround themselves with
talented technical staffs consisting of knowledgeable individuals in
order to make themselves more effective in exercising executive
technical issues can resolved by qualified, experienced and educated
people that possess the technical competence to come to an informed
way of thinking is not true in the field of energy.
have learnt from past experiences that the energy minister should be
The minister needs to have
been present in various power plants, have worked in their operation,
and moreover, he or she must have worked in the investment phase.
the minister should speak foreign languages, English first and
foremost but also Russian/ French/Arabic. If the minister holds a
post-graduate degree in International Relations/Law, it is even
importantly, the minister of energy should have taken courses on
“thermodynamics” throughout his or her studies.
current Energy Minister will not participate in the 7 June 2015
General Elections because of his party’s regulation that none of
their members of parliament may serve for more than three consecutive
I personally appreciate the technical competence of our Energy
Minister, who is a
graduate of the prestigious Istanbul Technical University and an
engineer by profession.
I met him at a public meeting, I asked “Did you take a course on
thermodynamics during your college education?”, to which he
responded, “Yes, I took the course from one of the best, so to say,
a legend at the department”.
was very pleased.
the past such a technical prerequisite was not necessary for
ministers of energy.
Technical competence and professional experience were necessary only
for the Undersecretary.
Our public administration was built in this way.
if a new minister was appointed, the undersecretary would remain.
was not a party member.
were the memory and brain of their respective ministries.
came and left, but the undersecretary was there to stay.
appointed as ministers were able to express their preferences as to
whom they thought should become the undersecretary of their ministry,
but they didn’t have much say in the end.
ministers have the appropriate amount of education and necessary
experience, and when they are appointed, they try to learn everything
related to the work of the ministry.
should make every decision based on the commercial and political
environment, taking the initiative wherever possible.
However, this is not the case in Turkey, but it seems to be this way
Public-bureaucrats prefer ministers that do not interfere, but this
is not good for the energy markets.
post of United States secretary of energy also experienced a similar
development process as our own.
politicians with law degrees were appointed as the US secretary of
Now, the Obama administration appoints scientists from outside of
politics to this position. Former
US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has received the Nobel Prize in
Physics and he was a professor at Stanford University.
US Secretary of Energy Dr.
Moniz is a professor of nuclear physics at MIT’s Energy Institute.
Germany, the federal minister in charge of “Economy and Energy”
is Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the chairman of the coalition partner
SPD party. He is an elementary school teacher by profession.
This post is based on political calculations for the coalition in the
the other hand, Chancellor Angela Merkel has a Ph.D. in “Quantum
Chemistry” with her dissertation based on thermodynamic
calculations. Could you imagine a prime minister with a Ph.D. degree
in a scientific subject which mainly depends on thermodynamic
is most likely very, very rare for an engineer to be appointed as
“Minister of Health” or “Minister of Justice”.
an individual cannot be expected to achieve success in such a post.
Could you appoint a lawyer or a medical doctor as chairman of the
Central Bank? No,
because they would not possess the economic educational background
that would enable them to understand the financial details associated
with their field of work. But
in the past, anyone could be appointed energy minister in our
School graduates have held the position of energy minister in the
past, and nobody asked why.
individuals learned much of the energy problems facing our country
during their tenure,
they made only limited contribution to the resolution thereof.
is a mandatory course for undergraduates studying Mechanical and
Metallurgical Engineering, Chemistry, and Environmental Sciences at
our technical universities. Other engineering students may take it as
an elective course.
is thought to be a very difficult course, however, if the student
works in a systematic way, consistently attending lectures,
completing the daily homework and studying every day, it is not at
It is for certain that those who procrastinate, waiting to study
until the day before the exam, will not be successful in such a
highest public office responsible for energy should be occupied by
somebody who has taken thermodynamics courses during their
undergraduate university education.
office is not a place to receive an education. If a politician is
appointed to head such a ministry, that politician should have
achieved a sufficient level of university education and have gathered
a significant amount of professional experience, both in advance.
is not our responsibility to teach each newcomer to the energy market
that a “volt” is not a “watt”, that there is no such concept
as “teravolt” or that a “megabyte” is not a “megawatt”.
We should not have to teach them the differences between thermal
power plants and renewable energy resources, nor should we have to
inform them of the details of the Kyoto Protocol. A stadium
“tribune” and steam “turbine” are not the same thing.
should know the current EIA criteria before coming taking this public
office. Public decisions should not ignore environmental
sensitivities. Wind and solar energy cannot replace base-load
electricity generation in the long-term as they have intermittent
production, and they need new specialized and expensive high-voltage
transmission line investments that utilize expensive “Pumped-Storage
Hydro Electricity (PSHE)” for load balancing. They should know that
these specialized state-of-the art investments and their operations
are not so cheap.
power plants are basically thermal power plants. Our local market has
not managed to build a nuclear power plant or a thermal power plant
for over the last 50 years. Basic design and the fabrication of major
parts for these facilities have always been curtailed due to the lack
of local finance. Here, we are forced to buy obsolete, old technology
to equip inefficient thermal power plants with low availability as
they are financed by Eastern European or East Asian suppliers and
supported by their export-import banks.
new minister of energy should know about global warming and
environmental impact assessment norms and should take care to not
build fossil fuel-firing thermal power plants on agricultural land,
forests, land with olive trees, ancient archeological sites, or in
the close proximity of touristic regions. Our minister of energy
should realize that that environmentalist/popular slogans such as
“Wind- solar energy is enough for us”, “Nuclear energy solves
all our energy needs, if we could have started construction in 1970s
then we would be building our own plants by ourselves by now”,
“There is oil in our land, but foreigners are preventing us from
exploring and utilizing it”, “Shale gas reserves will solve our
energy needs within the next 5 years”, or “We found oil off our
shores in the Black Sea”, are all urban legends with no applicable
practical or technical basis whatsoever. We must build fossil fuel
firing thermal power plants by ourselves completely, covering
basic-detail designs, fabrication and site installation domestically.
We are suffering from unemployment, yet we allow semi-qualified
foreign workers, convicts and soldiers to construct power plants
within our borders.
reports are to be prepared in detail, submitted properly and
evaluated carefully. In order to have the EIA reports approved and
certified for their new power plants, investors commit and promise
everything to the local people, whether employment, prosperity, low
emissions, or no water, land, or air pollution, but when they receive
approval, they forget their promises. This is not a problem specific
to Turkey, it happens all over the world. Investment control
mechanisms should be continuous, not only enforced by public
servants, but also by local NGOs. From time to time, we notice
political pressure being exerted for positive EIA results so that
investments can be approved and commenced. Yet, how
should we approve the ever increasing amount of requests to build new
imported fossil fuel-firing thermal power plants, when they are
expensive, their prices are floating, the fuel price remains
unreliable, and they increase our current account deficit (CAD),
which is already at intolerable levels. How can we just give
investors the license to proceed?
role in economic policy is a serious and crucial business.
investments, energy studies, petroleum explorations, pipeline
constructions, domestic coal production, scientific and economic
exploitation of domestic fuel sources, finding finance, and finding
jobs are all very serious issues.
To ensure our country’s prosperity
we need to have experienced well-educated ministers with tested
Direskeneli is a graduate of METU’s Mechanical Engineering
Department (1973). He has worked in public and private enterprises,
US-Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), and in
fabrication, basic/detail design, marketing, sales, and in project
management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as a
freelance consultant/energy analyst of thermal power plants, and
utilizing his basic/detail design software expertise for private
engineering companies, investors, universities, and research
institutions. He is a member of METU Alumni and the Chamber of
Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.
21 April 2015