This winter will be difficult for Turkey

This winter will be difficult for Turkey

I was going to say “Turkey will have a difficult winter” based on the electricity and natural gas shortages last week. However, when I heard yesterday of the police operations that encompassed top businessmen and mayors to general managers of state banks, to the sons of cabinet ministers, I can say that it will be difficult in every sense.

We were already expecting that the political climate would toughen because of local elections to be held at the end of March but yesterday’s operation demonstrated that it would be tougher than expected. We need to wait for the waters to calm before we can evaluate where these operations will reach, what stance the government will adopt, as well as to what extent this will affect politics and the economy. 

If we leave politics to one side and look at the winter months from an energy point of view, the experience we went through last week demonstrated that this winter will be one that we will be quite cold. Beyond the errors in management seen last week, existing irregularities in the infrastructure of natural gas and the electricity grid had also played a role. As necessary storage facilities that would meet the increasing demand for natural gas in winter months have not been built yet, inevitable cuts in natural gas and electricity supply occur when demand reaches above average levels. 

The remedy for this would have been storing natural gas for usage in the winter months as a backup, however, this has not been tended to for years. It is indeed the duty of the government to meet the increasing demand that comes as soon as the weather gets colder and to be able to manage this. The government seems to be in a difficult position because of the troubles experienced. If similar troubles continue until the pre-election period, they would put the government in an even more difficult situation. 

Storage facilities not built 

At the essence of the troubles experienced lies the effect of transforming the production of electricity into a system based predominantly on natural gas, and before the supply was under full assurance, the transport of natural gas across Turkey for heating purposes, thus causing a sharp rise in demand. In short, the lack of planning in energy is obvious.

Indeed, the fact that a structure principally dependent on Russia has been formed also decreases Turkey’s negotiation power. It is also a factor that restricts the country’s sourcing of natural gas from different resources if need be. 

The political troubles Iran is going through in the international arena and factors such as the underutilization of its resources also limit Turkey’s purchase of more gas from its neighbor Iran. Apart from that, liquefied natural gas (LNG) should be bought from source countries led by Qatar but apparently these preparations have not been seen to. About two weeks ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Qatar together with Energy Minister Taner Yıldız and announced that an LNG deal for four-five batches have been struck but that these tankers have yet to arrive. 

In such an environment, the most valid solution is to build the necessary storage facilities and use them as a backup; however, the government needs some catching up when it comes to the following matter: The emergence of problems in related tender processes along with the overlooking of back up gas opportunities.

As a result of all these, the winter cold that fell below the 4-5-degreehas caused the interruption in supply to power stations which work with natural gas in almost everywhere in the country, hence the power shortages. If the winter months are colder than usual, our experiencing similar trouble as the winter progresses is bound to occur.