While the media attention has been devoted disproportionately to energy exploration efforts, Turkey’s steps towards increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix were substantial in 2020. Amidst the concerns such as high energy import dependency, devaluation of the lira, widening current account deficit and energy security matters, Turkey takes steps towards capitalising on its renewable energy resources.
Ongoing economic development, population increase and urbanisation have been contributing agents in the rising demand for electricity, heating and transportation in Turkey. Turkey has the highest rate of growing energy demand among OECD countries over the last 15 years, where the per capita energy consumption was raised by 70% since 1990.
The scientific research asserting the irreversibility of the greenhouse effects, rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and declining biodiversity, among others, has proven the energy mix dominated by fossil fuels is not a viable long-term option for sustainable development. The trends in the global energy industry suggest non-renewable sources of energy such as oil, coal, natural gas are doomed to be replaced by renewable energy (RE) resources. It is particularly advantageous for Turkey to increase local RE production due to high share of imports in oil and gas, and devaluation of the Turkish lira.
Turkey is no exception with its attempts to reap the benefits of the decreasing cost of RE production and increased technology transfer among countries. With a 2001 legislation that liberalised energy sector, the share of the private sector in electricity generation rose from 42% in 2002 to 83% in 2020. FDI inflow in the energy sector of the country has also seen a 30-fold increase in the next decade following the policy implementation. RE Support Scheme (YEKDEM) started in 2011 and is due to expire on June 30, 2021. Through the scheme, Turkey provides feed-in tariffs for RE plants including wind, hydropower, geothermal, biomass, and solar.
The 10th (2014–2018) and 11th (2019–2023) National Development Plans both included these three policy objectives: achieving energy supply security, increasing energy efficiency and optimising the resource energy mix (Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, 2015). Decreasing import dependency in energy and minimising current account deficit through the utilisation of local energy sources are the main motivations in increasing the share of RE sources and introducing nuclear energy to the energy mix. The increase in Turkey’s local RE generation saved in energy imports worth $5 billion this year. In percentage terms, out of total power generation, renewable energy accounted for 43%, hydropower plants at 26%, wind at 8%, solar at 4% and geothermal at 3% in 2020 total power generation.
With the trade-off between the need to fill the increasing demand for energy and the energy projects’ environmental impact, 2020 witnessed an increased interest in local RE projects. Hydropower and geothermal energy, despite being sources for clean energy, are not without environmental ramifications. In Turkish regions with high geothermal energy potential, there is also high surface instability, increasing the risk of earthquakes. Moreover, the areas with hydropower energy potential are usually arable lands which provide a livelihood for the local population dependent on agricultural production. Hydropower and geothermal stations built in Anatolia have seen a backlash in forms of insurrections by the local population or nation-wide protests taking place on social media.
Turkey’s 2010s energy policies aimed to attract foreign and domestic investors by providing incentives and robust frameworks, in line with the 2023 vision of the country. The policies included the roadmap to exploit the RE potential of the country, and the government officials stating ambitious goals of becoming a RE hub. Rising domestic pressure parallel to increasing ecological awareness, and disrupted relations with the neighbouring countries might impede the collaboration possibilities and prove to be inconsistent in the country’s efforts to provide a secure investment environment. The absence of a longer-term energy policy might prove to be an advantage in building consistent energy and climate strategies which complements Turkish foreign policy, in an era of turbulence.
By Asli Yuruk, visit Anatolian Insider for numerous articles on Turkish economy and politics