Pınar Ertör Akyazı, a,* Fikret Adaman, a Begüm Özkaynak, a and Ünal Zenginobuz a ABSTRACT - PDF

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Citizens Preferences on Nuclear and Renewable Energy Sources: Evidence from Turkey 1 Pınar Ertör Akyazı, a,* Fikret Adaman, a Begüm Özkaynak, a and Ünal Zenginobuz a a Department of Economics, Boğaziçi

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Citizens Preferences on Nuclear and Renewable Energy Sources: Evidence from Turkey 1 Pınar Ertör Akyazı, a,* Fikret Adaman, a Begüm Özkaynak, a and Ünal Zenginobuz a a Department of Economics, Boğaziçi University, Bebek, Istanbul, Turkey *Corresponding author: Tel: ; Fax: address: (P. Ertör Akyazı) ABSTRACT Based on data from a face-to-face survey of 2,422 residents from urban Turkey, this paper presents an analysis of citizens preferences in Turkey on nuclear and renewable energy sources. Findings indicate that opposition to nuclear power was strong, and only a small number of respondents endorsed it by listing it in their top two choices. Conversely, almost two-thirds of the sample endorsed investment in renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar), and only a small minority was opposed to it. Econometric analyses revealed that knowledge of the climate change problem was a common factor that explained endorsement of both nuclear and renewables. Yet, high levels of concern for the environment and a negative perception regarding its future differentiated the endorsers of renewables from those of nuclear energy. Endorsers of nuclear energy were found to be males who were knowledgeable about climate change and engaged in environmental issues, but less concerned about the environment, and optimistic about its future. Nuclear opponents, on the other hand, were found to be concerned about the environment, pessimistic about its future, and not fully relying on technology. Keywords: energy preferences; environmental conflicts; environmental concern 1 1. Introduction Fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas, play a dominant role in meeting the global energy demand today, contributing to more than 80 percent of the world s primary energy supply. However, fossil fuels are finite, unevenly distributed among countries, and mostly situated in unstable regions of the world, which all give rise to serious energy security concerns. A further and increasing unease about fossil fuels is that they are important sources of greenhouse gas emissions (IEA, 2009). These have led policy-makers all around the world to search for alternative energy sources. Two main alternatives prevail in the current global energy debate: Nuclear and renewable energy, both of which draw support and opposition due to various reasons. Renewables, defined as energy sources derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly (IEA, 2002) include wind, solar, small-scale hydro, geothermal, biomass, tide and wave energy, and are promoted as being clean and endless. 2 Nuclear power, on the other hand, perceived with the connotations of modernization and technological advancement, is seen as a reliable, low-carbon and efficient energy source. Citizens preferences for different energy sources have come to play an increasingly central role in decisions about energy investments to be undertaken in the regions or the countries they live in even sometimes in their neighboring countries (Pidgeon et al., 2008; Visschers et al., 2009). The public resistance that escalated dramatically after the recent Fukushima accident, for instance, means that governments in a number of developed countries are no longer free to easily opt for nuclear energy. Germany is one such case where strong public pressure in favor of a nuclear phaseout, backed by the political pressure of the anti-nuclear Green Party, has forced the 2 current government to reverse traditional German national policies on nuclear energy (Adam, 2011; Poumadere et al., 2011). The impact of citizens preferences on energy policies extends, albeit to a lesser degree, to developing countries as well. Strong local resistance in India, for example, led to the withdrawal of the World Bank from funding the Sardar Sarovar Dam project (Dwivedi, 1999). Based on data from a face-to-face survey of 2,422 residents randomly drawn from urban Turkey, this paper presents an analysis of citizens preferences on nuclear and renewable energy sources. Turkey is a fast-growing middle-income country and, with a continually increasing population of 74 million, is in great need of and has large potential for new energy investments. Turkey currently has no nuclear power plants and the use of renewable energy is limited, but both alternatives are on the immediate energy policy agenda and are being actively debated (Kaygusuz and Arsel, 2005). With nuclear and renewable energy still untapped in the country, the setting of the survey study provides a laboratory environment for understanding the interplay between citizens energy preferences and policy formation and adoption in the context of a developing country. It is well known that nuclear accidents hold strong sway over public opinion in their immediate aftermath, and negative views on nuclear energy are strongly exacerbated during that time (Pidgeon et al., 2008; Rosa and Clark, 1999). The survey on which this study is based was carried out before the Fukushima nuclear accident, in the second half of 2007; thus respondents answers are free of the Fukushima effect. The previous nuclear accident that strongly affected public opinion in Turkey was the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, in nearby Ukraine. This study was conducted over 20 years after the Chernobyl accident, making it more 3 likely that any references to the accident are shaped by thoughtful calculation rather than impulsive emotional reaction. Given that, to the best of our knowledge, there is no comprehensive study investigating citizens energy preferences for the case of Turkey, the results presented in this paper establish the first reference point for the country and open the way for future studies. In addition to reporting the levels of endorsement and opposition for nuclear and renewable energy, as distant as possible from a nuclear disaster effect, the study also investigates the determinants of citizens preferences on these two energy sources, thus providing additional inputs to the relevant literature. Another important feature of the survey that this study draws on was that energy and environmental issues constituted the focus of the survey, rather than being an additional, small module of a general public opinion survey. That is, it was a hypothesis-driven dedicated survey about energy and environmental policy that aimed to uncover energy preferences and examine the underlying factors that may explain these preferences. To this end, the questionnaire used presented respondents with a full set of energy investment alternatives, consisting of nuclear, renewables, coal, natural gas, and large-scale hydropower. 3 The paper first describes the answers for the full set of alternatives, and then focuses exclusively on preferences for nuclear and renewable energy. A set of explanatory variables were conjectured at the research design stage to be correlates of energy preferences: In addition to standard questions about socioeconomic characteristics, the questionnaire also probed respondents knowledge, values, attitudes, concern and behavior regarding energy and environmental issues. The paper examines 4 associations between preferences for nuclear and renewable energy and these variables. More specifically, the objective of the paper is to answer the following questions: What can be said about the preferences for and against nuclear and renewable energy among a set of feasible energy alternatives for Turkey? To what extent are nuclear and renewable energy investments endorsed? What is the association between knowledge of climate change and preferences for nuclear and renewable energy? What are the associated environmental values, attitudes, concerns and behavior? In particular, how do environmental optimism, economyorientation, full reliance on technology, environmental concern, and engagement in environmental issues affect preferences for renewable and nuclear energy? One of the main findings indicated that opposition to nuclear energy was strong, and only a small number endorsed nuclear energy by listing it in their top two choices. Conversely, almost two-thirds of the sample endorsed investment in renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar), and only a small minority was opposed to it. Econometric analyses revealed that knowledge of the climate change problem was a common factor that explained the endorsement of both nuclear and renewable energy. Yet high levels of concern for the environment and a negative perception regarding its future differentiated the endorsers of renewable energy from those of nuclear energy. Endorsers of nuclear energy were found to be males who were knowledgeable about climate change and engaged in environmental issues, but less concerned about the environment and optimistic about its future. Nuclear opponents, 5 on the other hand, were found to be concerned about the environment, pessimistic about its future, and not fully relying on technology. The plan for the rest of the paper is as follows. Section 2 provides an overview of the general debate regarding nuclear versus renewable energy, and background information on energy issues and concerns in Turkey. Section 3 reviews the empirical literature on energy preferences. Section 4 presents the design of the survey instrument and explains the sampling method employed. Section 5 presents descriptive statistics for various questions of the survey to provide an overall view of the data obtained. The econometric model and analyses are then presented in Section 6. The last section discusses the results and concludes the paper. 2. Context Global climate change and energy security concerns constitute the two central issues in today s energy policies. As highlighted in the recent World Energy Outlook 2010 (IEA, 2010, p.3), it will be governments, and how they respond to the twin challenges of climate change and energy security, that will shape the future of energy in the longer term. In fact, these two concerns are often used to justify two distinct energy proposals: A greater reliance on renewables, and an expansion of nuclear energy. The World Energy Outlook 2009 (IEA, 2009, p.7) points out that a lowcarbon energy revolution is required in order to achieve climate change mitigation. Whether this can be achieved through increased reliance on renewable sources or on nuclear energy is being widely debated by different stakeholders, such as policymakers, investors, scientists, NGOs, and the general public. 6 The European Renewable Energy Council report, Rethinking 2050, for instance, points to a vision for Europe that would involve a 100% renewable energy future by the year 2050 (EREC, 2010, p. 6). Relying on a number of scientific studies, the report argues that this is not only technologically feasible, but is indeed the only sustainable alternative. In a similar vein, Jacobson and Delucchi (2011) indicate that it would be feasible to restructure the worldwide supply of energy to include only wind, water, and sunlight by 2050, to deal with problems of climate change, pollution, and energy security. The authors argue that barriers to such an ambitious plan are not technological or economic, but political and social. A trajectory for energy supply based only on renewable sources is very often criticized by nuclear advocates as being too optimistic, even mere wishful thinking. Critics of renewables claim that efficient electricity storage is an important problem, and therefore, energy produced by renewable sources on an intermittent basis could not replace fossil fuels until the storage problem is solved (Heal, 2009). They also assert that in most cases, renewable energy requires large investment costs, bringing about a funding problem (Painuly, 2001). In addition, there has been local resistance to wind farms in several places, which has often been associated with environmentrelated problems of renewables such as noise, visual pollution, and potential harm to migrating birds. In such cases, resistance to specific wind farm projects has often been understood in terms of not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) attitudes (see, e.g., Krohn and Damborg, 1999). However, recent studies demonstrate that there is not enough empirical evidence for the NIMBY argument (Devine-Wright, 2005; Wolsink, 2000), suggesting that the concept is too imprecise and fails to capture the complexity that underlies the resistance (Kempton et al., 2005; Wolsink, 2007). 7 Given the revived worldwide interest in nuclear energy, nuclear supporters were anticipating a nuclear renaissance in the near future before the 2011 Fukushima accident. The International Atomic Energy Agency s 2008 projections included a high scenario of 100 percent increase in nuclear energy capacity by These projections were based on the fact that 24 countries with nuclear power plants were reconsidering their phase-out decisions in 2008 (e.g. Germany and Sweden) and were inclined to encourage new nuclear energy investments, while about 20 countries without nuclear power plants (including Turkey) were considering the nuclear alternative in their future plans (IAEA, 2008a). As mentioned earlier, energy security seems to be one of the main arguments policymakers use to promote further nuclear energy development. In the US, for instance, it is feared that oil flow from the unstable regions of the world will be disrupted, bringing on severe consequences for the US economy. Energy security concerns further extend to Europe, a continent highly dependent on the natural gas imported from or through Russia (Joskow and Parsons, 2009). Interestingly, James Lovelock, a pioneering environmentalist and one of the founders of Greenpeace, supported the nuclear option by arguing that in the presence of climate change, [w]e have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear the one safe, available, energy source now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet (The Independent, 24 May 2004). Finally, an MIT Energy Initiative report on the cost of electricity generated from nuclear power plants is optimistic: [i]n deregulated markets, nuclear power is not now cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. However, plausible reductions by industry in capital cost, operation and maintenance costs and construction time could 8 reduce the gap. Carbon emission credits, if enacted by government, can give nuclear power a cost advantage (Deutch et al., 2009, p. 6). In contrast, opposition to nuclear energy mainly relates to the risk of a nuclear accident, as experienced recently in Fukushima, and to long-term waste disposal problems both of which have severe consequences for the environment and more generally for the survival of humankind. Joskow and Parsons (2009, p. 48) observe that for a nuclear renaissance to be possible, not only should the cost of nuclear energy be competitive with fossil fuels (which may be facilitated, for instance, by imposing a charge on carbon emissions), but significant progress should also be achieved in terms of nuclear waste and safety so that public acceptance may be enhanced. In this regard, the Fukushima nuclear accident, and the resulting extremely high levels of radioactive emissions (7 on the INES scale), 4 was probably a turning point. The post-fukushima atmosphere has clearly challenged governments planning to rely more on nuclear energy. Public pressure has urged them to reconsider their nuclear expansion plans. Within a couple of months after Fukushima, the German Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority to phase-out nuclear plants by 2022; Belgium s energy minister initiated a discussion on nuclear power; and Japan expressed the need to reduce dependence on nuclear energy and increase reliance on renewables. In parallel with these developments in the world, a public debate on energy alternatives emerged in Turkey among the business community, environmental NGOs, and the general public. Governments and the public have always paid great attention to energy issues in Turkey, given the critical role of energy in maintaining economic growth and Turkey s current reliance on imports (Kaygusuz and Arsel, 9 2005). To meet increasing energy demand, 5 the current government has been focusing on the largely untapped energy alternatives, nuclear and renewable energy (MENR, 2010a). Although the potential for renewable energy sources is high, this has been only minimally utilized to date. 6 Consequently, the current government has set installed capacity targets as 20,000 MW for wind power and 600 MW for geothermal by As for nuclear energy, despite several attempts by previous governments dating back to the 1970s, there are still no nuclear power plants in Turkey. Recently, in 2010, the construction of one nuclear power station on the Mediterranean coast at Akkuyu was contracted to Rosatom, the Russian state-owned atomic energy corporation, but construction has yet to commence. A second nuclear plant is planned at Sinop, a small city on the Black Sea, for which the government has initiated negotiations with Japan, South Korea, and China (Milliyet, 10 April 2012). The Akkuyu project, if materialized, will be the first nuclear power plant on a state s sovereign land owned and operated by another state (Şahin, 2011). The government s projections show that nuclear energy will meet 5 percent of the domestic electricity supply of Turkey by 2023 (MENR, 2010a). The current government s focus on these two sources can again be explained by concerns on energy security and rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions: Currently, Turkey s rate of dependence on foreign energy supply is at 73 percent (MENR, 2010b), while greenhouse gas emissions went up by 119 percent from 1990 to 2007 the highest increase among 41 Annex-1 countries of the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC, 2009). In this setting, there is a very heated ongoing public debate in Turkey on current energy policies, especially with regard to nuclear energy. The bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia was signed without much prior discussion at the 10 public level. This exacerbated the existing unease about nuclear energy, and seems to have given further impetus to resistance against nuclear power plant construction initiatives (Radikal, 14 May 2010). While the government has been trying to underplay its significance in an effort to push for nuclear plans, the 2011 Fukushima accident seems to have further strengthened the opposition movement (Şahin, 2011). Despite the importance of this mainly anecdotal evidence, there is no systematic study on the extent and nature of resistance to nuclear energy in Turkey at the national level, and on how the general public perceives various energy alternatives. While opinion polls and studies on citizens energy preferences have been conducted extensively and repeatedly in Europe and the US, similar studies do not exist in Turkey. The following section will provide a review of empirical studies that investigate citizens energy preferences, mostly in Europe and the US. It is hoped that the evidence presented in this paper on the case of Turkey will contribute to filling a gap in the growing literature on energy preferences in contexts other than the EU and the US. 3. Literature on Citizens Energy Preferences Public opinion on energy sources began to influence energy policy formation and implementation in the early 1970s. Until then, governmental energy policies were largely treated as a technical issue outside the sphere of public discussion. With the first severe oil crisis in 1973, however, energy policies gradually became a public concern, especially in the US, and opinion polls and surveys measuring citizens energy preferences gained importance. 11 Looking at the US case, public opposition to the construction of new nuclear power plants was around 20 percent in the mid-1970s. This climbed to more than 60 percent in the early 1980s,
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