A new energy game on the horizon
The U.S. decided to send back 60 Russian diplomats on March 26 and the EU followed suit by expelling 14 Russian diplomats. All former Cold War experts who have been ignored and shunned for so long are now suddenly back in the scene again. And like all of us, they are watching these events breathlessly while trying to guess the next move on the chess board by Russia.
But most Vladimir Putin watchers and energy experts are not surprised even a bit. Prof. Dr. Yaşar Onay, who teaches Russian politics at the National Defense University, believes it is a tradition of Moscow to reach new territories after years of waiting. “Historically, Russia, like a bear, has slept through winters. When spring comes and it is financially and militarily capable, it wakes up and searches for new targets,” Onay said, while explaining Russia’s influence in Syria and the rest of the Middle East.
Mehmet Öğütçü, chairman of the Bosphorus Energy Club, has stressed that Russia’s energy influence and military power in our region is making a comeback. “You will be surprised to hear that as Turkish influence diminished in northern Iraq, Russia filled the vacuum,” Öğütçü said at a press conference on March 26.
“Rosneft is becoming the biggest investor in the Kurdistan region. This was an area Turkey once had a great advantage in,” he added.
Öğütçü, together with PwC Turkey’s energy leader Murat Çolakoğlu, outlined the burning issues of the energy sector. According to Öğütçü, just like the global financial crisis in 2008, the region may experience a geopolitical crisis that could have global implications this year. The Saudi Arabia-Iran crisis could turn into a flash point. Turkey’s military operation inside Syria could extend to Iraq and may create tension with the U.S.
Meanwhile, there is no more cheap money in the markets to be pumped into greenfield projects. Gulf funders are timid and very selective in terms of investment, and renewable energy projects are grabbing more in the investment pie than anyone could imagine.
“The energy sector is going through a major transformation and power shift,” said Öğütçü.
“In Turkey, we have to make our own revolution to stay in the game. There needs to be transparency, strong rule of law and a new overall strategic plan for a new energy mix. Investors want to trust the system, they do not like rules being changed in the middle of the game,” he added.
A recent report by the Bosphorus Energy Club also outlined the need for diversity in the workplace.
“New business models are needed to transform and respond effectively toward a more customer-centric, distribution service-oriented energy market,” the report said. “To innovate, the companies need good problem-solvers and people with creative skills. That is why there will be more opportunities for women in the energy business,” it added.
A very special farewell
After 40 years of challenges and breakthroughs, Aydın Doğan and his family have decided to sell the Doğan Media Holding, which owns both CNN Türk and this newspaper. I owe my heartfelt gratitude to Vuslat Doğan Sabancı who allowed me to write for this very distinguished newspaper and Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ who gave me the opportunity to be on-air every day. They will forever remain as the trailblazers of this sector.