Turkey: ‘Localisation’ trend dominates the energy sector

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The solar PV sector is eagerly anticipating the details of a tender concerning 1 GW of photovoltaic capacity, set to be announced in the summer. pv magazine has reported on the latest available information regarding the tender – and the critical missing details that could define the country’s solar PV future.

Nevertheless it is certain the new tender will include local manufacturing rules for some, and possibly all, parts of the PV plants, as in the previous tender, for the Konya photovoltaic plant.

The dominant trend in Turkey’s energy discourse is ‘localisation’. Under the policy, Turkish energy politicians and government bureaucrats refer not only to Turkish fuel resources, but also demand generation facilities – including PV plants – be built using Turkish made technology.

The trend was evident, for example, at the recent International Energy and Environment Conference (ICCI), held in Istanbul in May.

Murat Zekeriya Aydin, a representative of Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, told the conference Turkey’s three main axes in the design of energy policy are: security of supply; being local and national; and ‘foreseeability’.

Mr. Aydin explained that by 2023 two thirds of the country’s electricity generation will be local. Currently, he said, local electricity generation accounts for around 33-37%, mainly due to hydro power – although less hydroelectricity is generated today because water is scarce – and coal plants.

That is why, said Mr. Aydin, Turkey will commission new lignite terminals and its first nuclear power plant. The ministerial representative added, renewable energies can supplement the effort.

Solar, said Mr. Aydin, contributes only 1% of Turkey’s electricity generation today, but will increase to five or six percent in 2023. By that date, wind will contribute another 10-11%, added the government representative.

Mr. Aydin was clear though: firstly, coal and nuclear plants are needed to support renewables when there is not enough wind and sun; and the main reason electricity will be affordable is because of local resources, and because of tenders with local production elements.

Current account deficit and energy technologies

The administration’s approach was exemplified by the answer Mr. Aydin gave to a member of the ICCI audience, who asked whether the government would offer any support for his solar start-up.

The speaker replied: “If your start-up can be effective in [reducing] the current account deficit and [can] create exports, then yes, for the government to support start-ups like yours, but otherwise no.”

Paris Agreement

Surprisingly, an ICCI session on sustainable energy that followed Mr. Aydin’s presentation, depicted how new coal technologies could potentially be ‘clean’.

Mehmet Acarla, for example – a member of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association (Tusiad) – said the nation needs more R&D, so it can use lignite in a clean way.

Arkin Akbay, also of Tusiad, added the present lignite sources should be used in an environmentally friendly way, and to do so the government should consult a wide spectrum of energy stakeholders.

Almost every Tusiad member speaking on the panel referred to the localisation trend.

Mr. Acarla said the new YEKA [Renewable Energy Resource Areas] tender model for solar and wind projects promotes the nationalisation of the energy sector, and the localisation of equipment used in the winning bids. Korkut Ozturkmen, also a Tusiad member, appeared to agree.

A little earlier, the representative of the Turkish energy ministry had noted that while Turkey signed the Paris Agreement, it has not ratified it. Mr. Aydin said Turkey believes it unfair for the agreement to describe countries such as China and South Korea as ‘developing nations’ and there are negotiations under way regarding that and other issues.

Energy storage enters the debate

DNV GL, a consultancy headquartered in Norway, published a statement this month saying the Turkish Ministry of Energy has commissioned it “to do a feasibility study for combined solar and energy storage solutions. The aim of the study is to provide the Ministry’s Renewable Energy General Directorate with best practices for a possible integration of energy storage in the upcoming solar auctions”.

DNV GL’s press release did not make clear whether the energy storage element would form part of the renewable energy auctions set to be published in the summer, or would apply only to later auctions.

It added, though, that based on the new PV tender, “the government aims to reach its goal of 5 GW [of] installed solar capacity [by] 2023”.

By the end of the year Turkey is expected to reach 4 GW of installed photovoltaic capacity, mainly via the smaller, unlicensed type of projects under way. The national goal of 5 GW by 2023 will be reached much earlier.

Should the forthcoming renewable energy tenders not include storage, as seems likely, the addition of energy storage for tenders after 2023 would hardly be a policy innovation. By that stage, energy generation plus storage will be the norm.