Non-hydro renewables overtake hydro for first time
Non-hydro renewable generation, which includes wind, solar and bioenergy, has doubled in Turkey since 2017, and overtook hydropower for the first time, according to a report released by Britain-based think tank Ember.
“Drought also played a role in the shift between hydro and non-hydro renewables,” said the report released on Jan. 20.
Decline in hydropower has been compensated by gas power in Turkey. While hydro share decreased from 26 percent to 17 percent, gas increased from 23 percent to 33 percent year over year in 2021 and pushed the share of fossil fuels to 65 percent in 2021.
Lack of hydropower pushed gas consumption into as much as 61 billion cubic meters, another annual record of all time.
Wind and solar generation set a new record by reaching 44.6 terawatt-hours (TWh), a 25 percent rise in a year. In 2021, wind and solar reached 13.6 percent share in total power generation, up from 11.7 percent in 2020.
Total renewable generation doubled in the last ten years; however, the rise in renewables (+58 TWh) since 2011 was far from meeting the power demand increase in the same period (+95 TWh). The gap was filled by mostly imported coal (+32 TWh).
Coal generation fell in 2021, for the third year in a row, as a result of extremely high costs of importing hard coal. Turkey’s coal generation has declined by 8% from 2018 to 2021. Coal generation fell even in comparison to 2020, when five lignite plants were shut down for six months due to their non-compliance with new air pollution limits. But it is still at the highest level of the pre-2018 period.
“The increase in wind and solar power has been promising but not enough to meet the rise in power demand. The gap was filled by imported coal, raised import bills,” Ember electricity and climate data analyst Ufuk Alparslan said in the report.
“However, wind and solar energy are now cheaper than coal generation relying on imports. 2018 may be the year when coal peaked in Turkey, but it would require determination not to build new coal and say goodbye to the dirtiest power generation source.”
The country is highly dependent on hydropower but hydropower production in Turkey exhibits great volatility, such that year-over-year hydro generation may differ as much as 30 TWh which equals around 10% of countrywide power demand. The share of hydro in total power generation likewise varies between 20-30% every year.
Turkey ratified the Paris Agreement in 2021 and set a carbon neutrality target of 2053.
Turkey’s total energy bill is expected to reach $55 billion in 2021, up from the 10-year average of $45 billion.
Only a limited amount of Turkey’s solar energy potential is being utilized, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol has said.
“Turkey made a considerable move in solar energy, but still we can only use 3 percent of our total solar energy potential,” he said at a recent conference organized by Sabancı University’s Istanbul International Center for Energy and Climate (IICEC).