A Sustainable Solution to Turkey's Energy Dilemma

Turkey’s current energy policies are not sustainable. Yet for governments who are willing to look deeper, opportunities exist for a sustainable solution.

Turkey’s energy demand significantly shapes her foreign policy. On the other hand, ever-changing and fluctuating foreign policy decisions also negatively effects Turkey’s already complicated energy equation. Beyond this complexity, 21st century dictates an ever increasing demand for clean and renewable energy resources. Despite a common perception on the contrary, Turkey has significant indigenous energy resources; mostly renewables. Therefore Turkey possesses a great opportunity; she can invest in her domestic resources and change her highly dependent and environmentally unsound energy policy. Ensuring access to affordable, uninterrupted, reliable, diversified and modern energy is essential for Turkey’s sustainable development; one of the greatest challenges Prime Minister Erdogan’s leadership does not seem to have truly apprehended to date.

The total share of oil and gas within Turkey’s energy consumption reached to 62% while almost all of these fossil fuels are imported. Turkey imports 92% of it’s oil and 98% of it’s gas consumption which causes significant vulnerability both in economic and geopolitical terms. Consequently, Turkey paid 54 billion US$ to oil and gas imports in 2011. This figure is almost 22% of our total imports and such an economic burden on the budget is not sustainable.

The share of fossil fuels in total is as high as 89.3% and despite claims on the contrary, has a tendency either to continue or even rise taking into acccount the new gas and coal fired plant liscences issued by the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA). The current electricity installed capacity is 53,000 MW, while new liscences awarded or in process to imported coal and natural gas-fired plants are adding up to 35,000 MW which clearly shows that official declarations towards decreasing import dependency is no more than rhetoric and misleading.

As a case in point, it worths nothing that a total of 75 % of Turkey’s gas imports are only from two countries; namely Russia (57%) and Iran (18%); while 63 % of it’s oil imports are again from the same two countries; Iran (51%) and Russia (12%). Meanwhile, Turkey’s recent foreign policy decisions like installing a NATO missile shield to Malatya, a prp and it’s hostile policy against Syria are percieved as threats directed to these two major supplier countries. Such steps are creating an increasing risky environment for Turkey’s oil and gas imports. Similarly, Turkish government’s so-called “Armenian opening” also caused a significant frustration in Azerbaijan and had a negative impact on Turkey’s  expectations (on pricing, increasing volumes, transit revenues, re-sale rights, etc.) for Azerbaijani gas supplies (from Shah Deniz-II) and relevant pipeline projects. Therefore, Turkey radically needs to review it’s current foreign policy and thus the energy stances which does not seem in favor of it’s citizens and above all, nation’s interests.

Turkey is in need of a radical change and a new vision. Energy policy should together be re-designed and in coordination with several other sectoral policy areas like foreign policy, security policy, environmental policy, agricultural policy, industrial policy, educational policy, etc. If Turkey’s indigenous resources can be generated in a rational, environmentally-friendly and efficient energy policy and a well-designed national strategy, Turkey would have a more independent, clean, sustainable and affordable energy sector. We owe such a change and vision not only to our families and citizens but to the modern world and future generations.


The  Significant Unused Domestic Energy Sources of Turkey

The main pillars of a rational, environmentally-friendly and sustainable energy policy can be summarised as follows:

  • Significantly reduce the total share of fossil fuels in the energy mix by the year 2023. This should be done by increasing the share of renewables and energy efficiency.
  • Increase the share of renewables in electricity generation to at least to 50% as of 2023.
  • Energy efficiency (0.27 toe/1000$ in Turkey compared to 0.18 toe/1000 $ for OECD average) should at least be 0.15 by 2023.
  • Constructing and operating the power plants pay utmost attention to protecting the environment since we are responsible also for the generations to come.
  • Develop the remaining hydro potential (100 billion kwh) in a rationally and environmentally-friendly strategy. The first step should be the water basin planning by the State Hydraulic Works (DS‹). Then without any exception, for every hydro plant, environmental impact assesment in accordance with the international standarts should be requested. Then the eco-system water amount should be scientifically calculated and secured. The inspections should regularly be made and the in case of violations, the penalties should be deterrent (which are not the case today). Priority should be given to power plants with an installed capacity of 50 Megawatts.
  • Develop the remaining domestic lignite reserves (to generate an additional 100 billion kwh electricity) with a similar strategy. Turkish Coal Enterprises (TK‹) should develop the coal sources. The coal-fired plants should use clean coal technologies and carbon capture and storage technologies should be used implemented.
  • The wind and solar potentials are huge. Here we need a national strategy as well. State should coordinate the current studies in the universities and those of the private sector for developing domestic technologies for manufacturing wind turbines, hydraulic turbines and machinery, solar PV panels. Technology transfer and tax exemptions are needed at this stage. In parallel, current modest incentives should be increased. Whenever foreign investment and technology is needed, technology tranfer should be required. Those foreign investors sharing their know-how should be promoted. Wind can add 120 billion kwh and solar 380 billion kwh more to our current generating capacity.
  • Geothermal will add 16 billion kwh. The complex and confusing legislative infrastructure of the sector should be simlified to encourage investments. Biogas is another siginificant resource which can provide an additional 35 billion kwh  capacity.
  • Oil and gas exploration activities since 1930s is immature. Less than 2000 exploratory wells were drilled since than which is totally insufficient to define Turkey’s potential. As a first step, the state-run Turkish Petroleum Company should be re-organised to have a vertically-integrated organisational structure and should be joned with BOTAS, the Pipeline Corporation. Giving priority to Black Sea offshore and deep Paleozoic formations, a new master exploration strategy should be designed and implemented. Fort he Mediterranean and the Agean Seas, Turkey’s foreign policy and energy policy should together be reviewed and a mutual solution between our country and with Greece and Greek Cypriots should be searched for. Our energy should be focusing to cooperation and joint development and not to confronting and loosing perspectives.

About Necdet Pamir

B.Sc., Petroleum Engineering, Instructor at Bilkent University, Former Board Member at World Energy Council, Turkish National Committee