Turkey is home to an ideal climate for wind and solar energy investments, with an average of more than seven hours of sunshine a day and bordering the Aegean, Black and Mediterranean seas.
Turkey’s demand for electricity is increasing steadily and Turkish policymakers are eager to decrease the country’s dependence on foreign nations for the gas and oil that, among other things, fuel Turkish electricity power plants. But Turkey has yet to harness its renewable energy potential due to a lack of legislation on the issue. Only 17 percent of the 198 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical energy generated in Turkey in 2008 came from renewable energy sources. As for its ability to make use of its solar energy potential, the country’s total established solar energy power is less than 1 megawatt (MW).
“The solar energy potential of Turkey itself is enough to meet Turkey’s overall energy needs threefold,” says Tanay Sıdkı Uyar, the director of Marmara University’s New Technologies Research and Application Center and vice president of the European Association for Renewable Energy (EUROSOLAR) Turkey. He stresses that there are three things needed in making use of solar energy: the source, the technology to make use of it and decision mechanisms that see renewable energy as useful and believe that it is the best solution to energy needs. “We have the sun. It shines every day, everywhere. Turkey is very lucky in this way. There is also the technology. Solar energy-related technologies have advanced in the world since the ‘80s. Now, we just lack the third step,” he says. He recalls that the renewable energy legislation that was approved by the parliamentary Energy Commission last summer has yet to be approved by Parliament.
The government characterizes the Renewable Energy Law (YEK), prepared by the parliamentary Energy Commission, as revolutionary, asserting that YEK will transform Turkey into a base for energy investment. The most important innovation brought about by the new YEK proposal is that the areas of investment in energy have been identified one by one rather than being lumped together, as was the case in the past.
Turkey currently obtains more than half of all its electricity needs from natural gas plants. With investment in renewable energy arenas, the variety of supply options would be secured.
The most recent New Energy Strategy Document states the goal of having five different sources to supply the 100,000 MW of electrical energy Turkey is predicted to need by 2023. The goal of the country is 20,000 MW in renewable energy sources in Turkey. So Turkey is aiming to reduce its dependence on natural gas and outside sources to a minimum.
However, the bill, which was expected to be on Parliament’s agenda this summer, was delayed again, which many fear may lead to Turkey missing the renewable energy train.
Kemal İbiş from the Konya-based Solimpeks Solar Energy Systems Co. -- Turkey’s top exporter of solar technologies in 2008 -- compares Turkey and Germany in their solar energy potential and their ability to harness their potential. “Turkey’s northernmost reaches receive more sunrays than Germany’s southernmost region. While Germany’s target is to meet 20 percent of its energy needs from solar energy by 2015, Turkey does not have such a serious goal. The leading reason behind this is a lack of awareness on the issue,” İbiş says.
He says Turkey’s biggest deficiency in making use of solar energy is a lack of incentives for the sector, which leads to high costs for investments in electricity-generating systems in particular.
Solimpeks emphasizes innovation in solar technologies and is hoping to sell hybrid PV-T collector solar panels (Solimpeks is the second-largest global manufacturer of the technology) to the Turkish market if the new legislation passes.
Association of Solar Electricity Producers and Photovoltaic Industrialists and Businessmen (Güneşe Derneği) President Mehmet Özer also agrees that the lack of legislation deals a severe blow to the Turkish solar energy sector. Özer said, in a written statement he recently released to criticize Parliament’s failure to pass YEK, that it is difficult to understand Turkey’s failure even though the world is leaning towards renewable energy sources. Stating that Turkey relies on foreign countries for about 70 percent of its energy needs, Özer, whose association works in partnership with the European PhotoVoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) to increase solar electricity production in Turkey, said the delay in the passage of the bill discouraged players in the solar energy sector.
He also has concerns that the law will not be able to boost investments even if passed. Noting that Turkey will be still behind European Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece, he said the possibility that the law might born dead as well as its delay causes fear in the sector.