Turkey Is Getting Ready To Harvest Its Renewable Energy Potential

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When we talk about wind, solar and geothermal power, geographical conditions such as surface areas and sunny latitudes are very important. Turkey offers excellent conditions for all of these renewable energy sources. Its young population of 70 million – 61% are under the age of 35 – and its strategic location between Europe and the Middle East, add to Turkey’s potential for a leading green power nation.

As Turkey aims at taking its place among the top-ten biggest economies by 2050, an increase in its energy consumption is inevitable. Electricity demand has been growing with an annual rate of 6.5% since 2002, up to current levels of 198,000 GWh/y. Scenarios forecast a 6% growth rate until 2020, compared to growth rates of 1-3% in developed countries. However, Turkey’s growth of electricity supply barely matches its fast growth of demand. The country began experiencing shortages already, and power has become a more popular daily topic. Total installed capacity is at 42,000 MW, with foreign natural gas (48%), coal (29%) and hydro power (17%) providing the biggest shares of resources. So far, the share of renewable energy is close to 1% of the total installed capacity.

In 2006, the government passed a set of incentives to stimulate the renewable energy sector. The efforts successfully resulted in substantial increases in the wind power capacity to 433 MW in 2009 from 50 MW levels in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, the capacity almost quadrupled. Currently, there is additional 450 MW construction to be completed by the end of 2009. Roof-top solar panels, which are commonly used for water heating in the Mediterranean region, produce energy equivalent to almost 4800 GWh/y, however installed photovoltaic capacity is only 2 MW. Turkey is the 5th in the World in operating geothermal energy applications with equivalence of 1380 MW capacity used in direct district heating and tourism industry.  Geothermal power production capacity is currently 30 MW. So far, only modest steps have been taken since the government has not set clear targets or competitive incentives on new technologies yet.

According to studies, Turkey has around 48,000 MW of wind power potential with speeds higher than 7 m/s. The geothermal energy potential of the country is around 31,500 MW -one of the highest in Europe- which could be used for both heating and electricity production purposes. As Turkey is the second sunniest country in Europe after Spain, it can draw 380,000 GWh/y of solar energy – almost double the total electricity consumption of the country in 2008.

Turkey has signed the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol this year, and the country is going to be assigned a reduction of greenhouse gases for the post-2012-phase, which will eventually turn into clearer targets in its renewable energy sector.

It is expected that the Parliamentary General Assembly will pass an amendment to “Renewable Energy Resources Law 4628″ in July, effectively setting a purchase price, or feed-in-tariff, for renewable energy. While the renewable energy can be sold to the public at rates shown in Graph-1, the prices are still not competitive enough to make solar favorable against natural gas. The tariffs for photovoltaics are set at EUR 0.25/kWh only for the first 10 years of operation, and then decrease to EUR 0.20 for the next 10 years.  While rates in other European countries are much more attractive (see Graph-2), particularly in countries like Greece and Italy trying to catch up to their western neighbors, it is the first serious step towards setting a long-term purchase price incentive for renewable energy producers. The mechanism is expected to increase developments in the Turkish renewable energy sector, and investors are already beginning to position themselves in the market.

Turkey renewable price incentives european feed in tariffs 2009

There are still many unclear issues regarding regulations and their execution. While this problem is not unique to Turkey, the country’s transmission grid needs extensive upgrades. Despite this and other much needed developments, EU directives, feed-in-tariffs, Kyoto mechanism obligations, and technological developments in the solar and wind industries are pushing the country onto the right track. Setting up and achieving goals may need more time than planned, but it is clear that Turkey is becoming more aware of its natural conditions.

[photo credit: UweBKK] [graph by author]

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