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Potential Interest to Turkish Investors: Distributed Generation Technologies

Jeanene Mitchell, researcher at the Columbia University Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy (CEMTPP).
By Ali Çınar -
Upon graduating from Georgetown University, Jeanene Mitchell moved to Istanbul as a Fulbright fellow to conduct research on legal issues relating to the sea and navigation in the Straits. She said that she was fortunate to stay for two more years after that as a research assistant on marine law and policy for Professor Nilufer Oral at Istanbul Bilgi University. “I absolutely loved the three years that I lived in Turkey, and consider Istanbul to be my second home,” she said.  
In 2005, she left for New York to pursue a master’s degree in international energy management and policy at Columbia University.  During that time, she was honored to serve as President of Turkish Initiative, a graduate student organization at Columbia dedicated to promoting informed discussion on Turkish history, culture, and politics.

Most recently, she worked as a researcher at the Columbia University Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy (CEMTPP) on urban energy and marine transportation issues, as well as energy governance in the Black Sea and Caspian regions, under the guidance of Professor Stephen Hammer and CEMTPP Director Albert Bressand. She talked to TURKOFAMERICA about Urban Energy developments in the US and urban energy issues that could be interesting for Turkish investors.

Could you tell us about yourself?
I am a 29-year old PhD student with a passion for Turkish culture, language, history, and contemporary politics… not to mention baklava!  I am originally from Tacoma, Washington, but have spent the past eleven years living in Washington DC, Istanbul, and New York City.  

What areas are you currently studying and focusing on?
I am just starting my PhD in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, with a focus on Turkish Studies, at the University of Washington.  My research interests include Turkey’s relationship with the EU and other Turkic countries, and Turkey’s role in helping to establish energy governance and sustainability principles within the Black Sea and Caspian regions.  I am also very interested in Turkey-Azerbaijan relations, after having the chance to spend a month in Baku this past summer.

Can you tell us about the Columbia University Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy’s (CEMTPP) Global Energy Governance Program?  What is the relevance of this program for Turkey’s energy policy?
The Global Energy Governance Program at CEMTPP aims to bring together the different perspectives of energy producer, consumer, and transit countries on the issue of energy governance.  Since there is not yet a common understanding of the concept, we define an effective energy governance regime as a combination of common rules, market structures, formal and informal institutions, and political relationships which facilitate mutually-beneficial, multilateral energy and investment relations over the long term.

We are beginning our program with a focus on Eurasia, the Caspian Sea, and the Black Sea regions because they collectively comprise such a strategically important area for energy production and transport.  Yet geopolitical and market changes in this part of the world have led to a fragmented approach to energy governance.  As I discuss in my forthcoming article in Azerbaijan Focus, everyone loses from the incongruent rules and norms, the lack of consensus on market structures, unconstructive competition, and tense political relationships which currently characterize energy relations in these regions. We saw this all too clearly earlier this year, when the gas pricing disputes between Russia and Ukraine resulted in gas flows being shut off to significant parts of Europe.  

How do you see Turkey’s role in the region?
Turkey is clearly a critical player in this milieu, as one of the most important energy transit countries for oil and gas pipelines supplying Europe and international markets further afield.  Especially as Europe seeks greater security of energy supply in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine disputes, Turkey is seen by Europe as a trustworthy and dependable partner.  The signing of the Nabucco pipeline agreement further solidifies Turkey’s pivotal role in the region.  Yet Turkey’s aspirations to be an energy hub rather than just a transit country bring additional levels of complexity from a technical, political, and governance perspective.  The establishment of trustful, cooperative political and economic relations among regional players, as well as common notions of energy market rules and pricing, could greatly facilitate Turkey’s progression towards becoming an energy hub.  It could also avert tensions such as those that recently arose over gas prices between Turkey and Azerbaijan, in spite of a long history of close relations between the two countries.  For this reason, Turkey has much to gain from improved energy governance in the region.  The insights emerging from CEMTPP’s Global Energy Governance program and our scenarios work in the region will therefore be of interest to Turkish policymakers and other Turkish stakeholders in the energy industry.

What are the Urban Energy developments in the US?
Since most of the energy in the world is consumed in cities, it makes a lot of sense to understand developments in energy policy, markets, and technologies at the city scale.  CEMTPP has developed a cutting-edge Urban Energy Program, led by Dr. Stephen Hammer, to do just that.  While the decentralized nature of energy markets and policy within the U.S. makes it somewhat difficult to generalize about urban energy issues in the U.S., I can say that city governments are generally becoming much more interested in playing an active role in shaping their energy futures, seeking to pursue climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, and thinking about energy efficiency and security of supply. 

Which areas of opportunity related to urban energy issues could be interesting for Turkish investors?
One area of potential interest to Turkish investors is that of distributed generation technologies, which are increasingly being deployed in cities.  This includes renewables like solar photovoltaic, solar thermal and small wind, but a technology to watch is combined heat and power (CHP).  CHP systems usually operate at the building scale, and are ideal for dense urban environments.  They simultaneously generate heat and electricity at or near the point where the energy will be consumed, and are dramatically more efficient than conventional, large-scale central station power plants.  As a result, they can save money on fuel costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Mayor of New York City has even set a target of 800 MW of CHP deployment by the year 2030.  While the regulatory and market situation is different in each city, and can in some cases complicate deployment, demand for CHP should nonetheless be on investors’ radar, as demand for greater energy efficiency in urban environments will continue to grow commensurate with rising electricity prices and climate change concerns.  For more information, a 2007 study published by CEMTPP on the viability of CHP in New York City is available at www.cemtpp.org.

How was your experience in working with the “Marine Transportation 2030” Scenarios group at CEMTPP?  How do you see the future of marine transportation in the Black Sea?
Working with the “Marine Transportation 2030” scenarios group to envision the future of the marine transportation industry was a singular experience, because it reconciled a group of prominent thinkers and professionals in the maritime industry and asked them to think plausibly about how the industry will evolve to the year 2030.  After two years of research, we are in the process of completing a book with the conclusions and policy implications of our findings.  I am currently co-authoring a chapter on the Black Sea with Professor Nilufer Oral of Istanbul Bilgi University.  

The future of marine transportation in the Black Sea will be shaped by the balance struck between the tripartite forces of economic volatility, environmental sustainability, and the quest for safety and security.

After climate and energy, what do you think is the most important issue facing the world?
The continued existence of extreme poverty in the world, and the fact that there is a continually-growing global gap between the rich and the poor, is one of the most important issues facing the world.  Not surprisingly, there is actually a significant energy and climate dimension to this issue as well.  The poor are disproportionately affected by the weather incidents brought about by climate change, from floods to droughts, both because they tend to live in areas with inferior or limited infrastructure, and because they often have more agrarian lifestyles. 

In developing countries, the poor are also the people for whom access to electricity for simple things like refrigerating medicines, pumping water or lighting even a single light bulb would allow for needed vaccinations, eliminate the need for a two-hour walk to a well and enable a child to study in the evening, respectively.  We are privileged to live the lives that we do, and I think that bestows us with a responsibility to give some of our time, resources, and/or intellectual capacity to solving the problems of those who do not enjoy the same luxuries, opportunities, or fulfillment of basic needs as we do.

You lived in Turkey for a while. What were the positive and negative aspects of living in Turkey?
I was moved by the way Turkish people took me in as one of their own, and were so supportive of my efforts to learn the Turkish language and culture.  The friends and mentors I have in Turkey are like family to me.
To live in Istanbul is to be surrounded by living history, and I was captivated by that, since it was so different from my experience growing up in the comparatively young United States.  I loved wandering the streets of Istanbul, drinking tea with friends by the Bosphorus, and feeling as though I was somehow a part of the fabric, and a tiny piece of the history, of the city myself.

While living in Istanbul, I found that Turkey can sometimes be reactionary in the face of criticism. For example, the banning of certain internet sites in Turkey today is, in my opinion, unnecessary.  At the same time, Turkey has weathered many more serious hardships than slanderous comments made about it on the internet.  It would be a demonstration of Turkey’s much-merited confidence in itself to simply ignore such criticism, which is powerless to tarnish domestic and international respect for the country.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07