Turkey imports more than three-quarters of its primary energy supply, primarily from Russia and Iran. The country’s energy ministry says it wants to become less dependent on foreign sources — but how sensible are its methods?
As Turkey faces a 10 percent growth rate in energy demand and unrest in the Middle East pushes oil and gas prices up, Turkey’s government has unveiled a new strategic plan to wean itself from foreign energy sources. Over the next four years, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said last week, efforts to locate domestic oil and gas sources will “intensify”, and his ministry will continue trying to invest in nuclear power plants in Turkey.
This plan ignores the fact that Turkey’s richest energy resources lie above its soil, in the sun and wind. Turkey’s domestic energy policy does need a major overhaul — but the energy ministry seems to be heading in the wrong direction.
Around the same time that the Ministry of Energy announced its strategic plan for promoting energy independence, Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority released long-overdue regulations governing solar energy.
The good news is that these regulations will finally allow foreign investors to get licenses to build solar power plants in Turkey.
The bad news is that licenses for only up to 600 MW of solar capacity will be given out — a fraction of Turkey’s remarkable solar resource, and a drop in the bucket of Turkey’s 46,500 MW installed electric capacity.
Strategic plan instead emphasizes dirty, unsafe fuels
The government’s new plan focuses far more heavily on searching for undiscovered reserves of oil and gas in Turkey, and investing in nuclear energy if those reserves fail to turn up.
What the government doesn’t discuss publicly is the fact that the nuclear plant it’s trying to build in a southern Turkish province — besides being located on an active fault line — would be majority owned and operated by the Russian government’s atomic energy corporation, Rosatom. In other words, it might be located on Turkish soil, but it would still supply foreign energy.
Fueling Turkey with domestic oil and gas, moreover, will only force a different kind of debilitating dependence on the country. When underground fuel reserves run out, as even the Gulf states have begun to acknowledge is inevitable, countries with the strongest renewable energy infrastructures will be best off. Not to mention the local environmental damage wreaked by fossil fuel power plants, which Turkey’s government still hasn’t figured out how to properly regulate.
The need for change
Turkey is rightfully concerned about its dependence on foreign energy. Each time the world’s oil prices rise by one dollar, the country’s energy bill rises by $200 million. Turks pay about $12 per gallon for gas at the pump.
But if the government wishes to find a longterm sustainable solution to its rising energy consumption, and protect its current account deficit against further price spikes in foreign energy, it needs to get serious about the energy resources in which it is truly rich: renewable ones.
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