Heavily dependent on foreign energy imports, Turkey expands renewable energy capacity in hydro, solar, wind, and biomass power to increase energy independence.
Turkey aims to add 1,500 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity in 2021, double the figures in 2020, when just 672 MW were added due to disruptions in the global supply chain from the Covid-19 pandemic. With last year's additions, Turkey's total solar power capacity reached 6,667 MW at the end of 2020.
"The share of solar power in Turkey's total electricity generation stood at 4 percent last year. In 2021, we expect 1,500 MW capacity to be constructed and the share of solar in total electricity generation to rise to over 5 percent," Halil Demirdag, head of the Turkish Solar Energy Industry Association (GENSED) told Anadolu Agency.
Demirdag recommended full utilisation of Turkey's solar power potential to help Turkey reduce its energy import bill and contribute more to climate change action.
In addition to solar power, Turkey has been making efforts to increase its share of renewable resources in other sectors as well. Renewable resources made up over 50 percent of Turkey’s total installed power in 2020, an all-time high for the country. Of the 4,900 MW of installed capacity that became operational in 2020, 98 percent was from renewable sources.
Turkey heavily relies on energy imports, particularly fossil fuels, to meet its growing energy demands. Currently, it imports approximately three-quarters of its total energy needs, which has left Turkey vulnerable to volatility in energy prices as well as challenges in energy geopolitics. Moreover, Turkey has the highest rate of growing energy demand among the 37-member OECD countries, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Thus, expanding domestic and renewable energy sources is one of Turkey’s energy priorities, alongside diversifying the sourcing of existing fossil fuel imports to reduce foreign dependency, increasing energy efficiency, and harnessing nuclear energy. Ankara plans to have the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in the Mediterranean city of Mersin fully operational by 2023.
Expanding Renewable Alternatives
Ankara has been investing in various alternative and renewable energy sources, like wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower.
By far, hydropower accounts for the largest share of renewable energy, with an installed capacity of over 28,000 MW as of 2018.
With an installed capacity of 8,330 MW as of October 2020, wind power meets around 9 percent of the country's total electricity generation, and nearly 18 percent of its renewable energy installed capacity.
According to Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Fatih Donmez, the sector employs 15,000 people which help localize energy technologies within the country.
"We want to make the wind sector Turkey's second automotive sector," he told Anadolu Agency, adding that there are currently more than 80 equipment production companies operating in the wind energy sector in Turkey.
With 1,526 MW of installed capacity, Turkey is currently ranked fourth in the globe and first in Europe for geothermal power capacity.
As of September 2020, installed capacity of biomass was 1,238 MW (369 MW of which was waste heat), up by 1,141 MW since 2010. A 2020 study found that biomass could meet nearly a third of Turkey’s electricity needs.
Shrinking Turkey’s carbon footprint
The EU’s Green Deal, which aims to make the bloc “climate neutral” by 2050 outlines a series of steps and obligations for member states. It is also considering a border “carbon tax” to help level the playing field for EU companies vis-a-vis rivals who do not consider carbon costs in their production. The tax is expected to be implemented in 2022, though details are vague, and uncertainties regarding the particular challenges its implementation will bring are still being discussed. However, as the EU is Turkey's number one import and export partner (42.4 percent of Turkey’s exports), it is a development that Turkey is watching closely.
"No Turkish exporter can risk losing the European market," Demirdag told Anadolu Agency.
He added that manufacturers will be able to reduce their carbon footprint by installing solar plants for their own processes, which could also contribute to Turkey’s increased use of solar power.