How can Turkey’s energy policies focus on local and renewable resources?

How can Turkey’s energy policies focus on local and renewable resources?

Two major steps are expected from Turkey’s energy administration this year: A well-designed coal policy and a detailed renewable energy scheme. Energy officials have repeatedly voiced signals about these policies by emphasizing the importance of creating a robust approach based on more local and renewable resources. How this is to be achieved will play a significant role in maintaining a truly sustainable energy roadmap. 

Energy Minister Berat Albayrak recently said Turkey’s installed power will be increased gradually, by mainly focusing on more local and renewable energy resources. 

“We will never make concessions against environmental and worker safety sensibilities in coal production. Filtration systems in coal-fired power plants are of great importance and we will place an emphasis on limiting emissions to the lowest levels possible,” Albayrak said, also noting that Turkey’s installed power from renewable energy resources will be increased to over 45,000 megawatts (MW) by the end of 2019. 

According to the government’s plans, 90 coal-fired power plant projects are underway with the aim of adding 18,500 MW installed power capacity by 2023. 

The diversification of Turkey’s energy resources is crucial for economic growth and development, as it cannot continue with its current model (which is over-dependent on foreign resources). However, the roadmap must be designated very carefully, as current policies are far from creating sustainable outcomes. 

First of all, insisting on coal resources represents a huge problem at a time when many countries, including China, have developed policies to halt the use of this kind of resource in order to decrease their emissions.

Turkey has promised to decrease its CO2 emissions by around 20 percent by 2030, in line with the Paris Climate Deal. But figures show that Turkey’s emissions grew more than 100 percent between 1990 and 2013. An even greater increase is expected unless dramatic changes are made in the energy sector, as well as in the construction sector. 

It is good to hear the emphasis on the launch of filtration systems, but the main question here is whether officials will track the anti-pollution practices of energy companies. The government had earlier introduced an exception for coal-fired power plants until 2021 while making ecologically-friendly investments. Apparently this regulation was canceled by the Constitutional Court in 2014 after a joint application by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Greenpeace. However, some companies have applied to local courts and received favorable rulings, giving them an opportunity to postpone their environmental investments to a later date.

Another problem relates to where coal reserves are located. In Turkey, around 85 percent of the coal used in power plants is imported, as Turkey’s own coal reserves are not enough for power generation. 

Energy officials recently said they are searching for the latest technology to generate power from coal reserves with lower calories. At this point, it may be useful to make a cost analysis, for example by comparing the costs of such technologies with the costs of greener renewable energy technologies. 

Last but not least, although Turkey has made strides in developing its renewable energy production over the past decade, progress in this field almost seems to have come to a halt. Turkey can only reach its target of producing 30 percent of its energy capacity through installed renewable sources by 2023 by revising its existing investment and licensing model. There must be a problem with these models as the country has reached just 4,700 MW in its wind power capacity and 500 MW in its solar power capacity. These figures are already around 40,000 MW for each in Germany, despite the fact that the two countries started to focus on renewable energy at around the same time. 

There is another problem with Turkey’s renewable energy policy: Hydroelectric power plants constitute a dangerously high portion of installed renewable power. These kinds of power plants have almost the same regulatory and environmental problems that are the case with coal-fired power plants. 

Turkey has limited time to restructure its energy policy to make it more local and environmentally friendly.

The required steps need to be taken as soon as possible and in a transparent way.