The latest in Turkey’s attempts to diversify energy sources sees the release of the 2016 Budget Presentation of the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry, indicating that an increase to maximum capacity coal production levels can save the country $7.2 billion in natural gas imports.
Since the fallout with Russia, the Turkish government has been seriously focused on the diversification of energy imports either by striking deals with other energy partner countries or by intensifying incentives for the use of domestic energy sources. Currently 70 percent of Turkey’s energy demand is fulfilled by imports, pushing forward the transition to a local based energy usage.
Coal, despite being highly carbon intensive and responsible for the biggest share in worlds CO2 emissions, remains Turkey’s number one domestic energy source. Turkey has abundant coal resources and currently numerous projects are being implemented in order to increase underground coal production.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources the estimated potential in production of lignite coal is around 25, 000 megawatts; the use of which would negate the need for 32.5 billion cubic meters of imported natural gas- worth $7.2 billion.
The 2016 Budget Presentation foresees the revision of existing incentives and the introduction of new ones in order to increase the power generation capacity of domestically mined coal. Moreover, new funding methods will be developed and implemented for search and mining activities for the discovery of local coal fields.
Earlier this month, the Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak updated the road map for the energy sector, specifying that more than $110 billion will be invested in energy projects. Security of supply remains the main component of policy making in the energy sector as the overall aim is to cut dependency on individual countries such as Russia. The Ministry says the dependency on Russia will have dropped by 50% by 2019.
To this end, besides coal, further incentives will be provided for the development of renewable energy resources while the number of supplier countries for crude oil and natural gas will be expanded. According to the road map, natural gas will no longer dominate the electricity production mix as it is projected to stay below 38 percent of total production by the end of 2019.
This transition to a coal-based economy and expansion of the industry including new plants and pipelines will likely further antagonize environmental activists who have been pushing for a move towards sustainable energy- particularly solar, as a solution to Turkey’s diversification problem and a way to fulfill Turkey’s energy needs locally and sustainably.