The pursuit of independence, sustainability and security: Turkey’s new energy strategy

The pursuit of independence, sustainability and security: Turkey’s new energy strategy

Turkey has become one of the fastest growing energy markets in the world. Nevertheless the country is still highly dependent on countries like Iran and Russia, which – in political respect – are delicate partners. The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) is one example of Turkey’s ambitious energy policy. It is supposed to turn Turkey into an important energy corridor for the European Union by 2018.

To cope with all energy-linked challenges and opportunities, Minister of Energy Berat Albayrak launched a new domestic energy and mining policy at the beginning of April. The strategy is in line with the Vision 2023, a government plan that envisions that at the 100th birthday of the Turkish republic the country will be among the top ten economies in the world. With the strategy the government among other goals adopted energy targets for the next decade with a number of action plans on energy efficiency, renewable energy as well as climate change.

Turkey’s new policy contains several goals: diversifying energy supplies, increasing the security, prioritization of national resources, deployment of renewable energy and a predictable market. Those aspects will be the centerpieces of Turkey’s new national energy strategy. According to official data from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the external dependence is about 75 percent.

Also in other respects, there is a backlog in climate policy. The country is - along with Russia - the only G20-country that did not ratify the Paris Agreement. The reason for it is to retain access to climate finance as a developing country and have a position of ‘special conditions’ for accommodating the Agreement while keeping the current growth rate and business as usual. All in all, it seems Turkey wants to be a part of changing climate regime and policy - but without actually changing the country’s climate policy to any better approach for decreasing the total emissions and polluting industry.  

Turkey tries to deal with an increasing domestic energy demand. According to the International Energy Agency, from 2004 until 2014, the electricity consumption almost doubled, while the demand for gas grew even faster. Over the last decade, Turkey has seen the second largest growth in domestic gas and electricity consumption, only outranked by the average annual growth of five percent of Turkey’s economy since 1980 has been the major driver of this increasing energy demand. Currently, the primary energy demand is met by 35 percent natural gas, 28,5 percent coal, 27 percent oil, 7 percent hydro-power, and 2,5 percent from other renewable sources.

The limited domestic energy resources have resulted in a heavy dependency on energy imports, particularly those of gas and oil. Turkey imports nearly 99 percent of the natural gas it consumes. In 2015, Turkey imported around 55,3 percent of the natural gas from Russia, 16,2 percent from Iran and 12,7 percent from Azerbaijan. The situation with oil supplies is similar. In 2015, Turkey imported around 89 of crude oil mainly from Iraq, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Despite being the biggest producer of greenhouse gasses among OECD countries, Turkey wants to balance this dependence and plans to further incentivize the coal production, in particular by increasing local coal consumption. Therefore the government plans to use its entire coal reserves by 2023 and to build in that time 70 more coal-fired thermal power plants in addition to the 25 that are already in operation. This situation clearly contradicts the 2015 G20’s decision to support the transition to clean energy and Paris Agreement target of keeping total global warming at 1.5°C according to the party countries emissions limitations to catch the goal.

With the new policy Turkey now also tries to focus on alternative ways to decrease the country’s dependency on foreign resources. These objectives are supposed to be achieved with the inclusion of more indigenous sources be they renewable or nuclear. In the long-term Turkey thereby aims to consolidate its position among energy-rich countries in the region also by increasing its storage capacity. In the ‘Turkey National Action Plan for Renewable Energy’ for instance hydroelectric plants and geothermal energy are the leading sources of renewable energy capacity. But they are considered as part of promising renewable energy capacity most of those projects are facing local resistance in the field because that they are highly harmful for the natural habitat, agriculture activities, endemic species, ecological balance and integrity. Most of hydroelectric plants projects are considered as environmental conflict because of aforementioned reasons.

The minister now wants to decrease the dependence on energy resources by increasing investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG), so called Floating Storage and Regasification Units, and by expanding the storage capacity of oil and natural gas storage. Eastern neighbors of Turkey have 72 percent of the natural gas resources of the world therefore the country already is a transition point of energy to Europe. In economical respect, it’s an added value of market, employment and cooperation. But at the same time, LNG technology enables overseas countries to transfer their gas via tanks on ships without pipelines. As a result other suppliers of LNG which are not neighbors can supply LNG for the market without need of Turkish territory. Therefore developing LNG technology and market may shadow Turkey’s transition point market plans.

Turkey also plans to conduct seismic studies for oil and gas drilling activities from this year on: two in the Black Sea and two in the Mediterranean. Another plan is to raise Turkey’s investments in coal reserves. Turkey’s use of local coal reserves had almost doubled to 15 billion tons in recent years. Turkey also wants to increase its solar and wind power capacity by 10.000 megawatts for each in the next decade.

The aim is to complete the strategy by 2018, Albayrak told newswire Anadolu Agency. In 2018, another project is expected to be completed: The TANAP, Trans-Anadolu Doğalgaz Boru is a natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey to Europe. It will connect a gas field in Azerbaijan to Europe. Once completed, TANAP Turkey hopes that it will strengthen its role as a regional energy hub and its position between East-West and South-North Energy Corridors.

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