Turkey hydrodam

Turkey could use clean energy instead of coal generation to achieve its twin aims of growing power supply and reducing natural-gas imports at roughly the same cost, according to new research.

In its report “Turkey’s Changing Power Market”, Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlined how nearly half of the country’s power demand could be met by renewable energy by 2030 in a scenario with costs comparable to the $400 billion coal-led strategy currently in place.

According to the government’s plan, Turkey’s electricity demand will grow by more than 5% a year for the next 15, with coal capacity, as well as some wind and nuclear, expanding while gas power is put out to pasture.

But BNEF research, funded by the European Climate Foundation, commissioned by WWF-Turkey and published today, states that the government’s projections for future power demand are inflated — and the increasing affordability of solar and wind energies represents a legitimate opportunity to introduce a modern, low carbon energy infrastructure.

Hydro’s already there

Bloomberg’s Renewables Development Pathway (RDP) scenario would see gas generation fall by almost 20 points to 26% by 2030, coal drop to 18%, and renewables rise from 29% to an astonishing 47%.

Although the RDP has wind and energy making the most gains (55% and 30% of new installations till 2030), the lion’s share  of clean energy would be provided by hydroelectricity — much of which is already installed.

Hydro currently provides 24% of Turkey’s power, representing over 90% of installed renewables. Despite its share falling 3 points in the RDP, hydro would still overtake coal as the country’s 2nd largest source by 2030.

Hydro growth, however, would be minimal, with 15% of investment going towards upgrades and a strategy of small-scale installations located in northeastern Anatolia.

Its success penetrating the country’s energy market notwithstanding, Turkey’s hydro sector is highly controversial — with concerns over flooding, land rights and environmental protection.

OTT projected demand

Bloomberg claims that the Turkish government has vastly overstated the size of the country’s future power demand — a key rationale for Bloomberg’s less-energy-intensive scenarios.

Using recent growth rates, and assuming accelerated economic expansion, the government has forecast 2030 electricity demand to reach 619TWh.

Bloomberg’s scenarios — both the RDP and the more conservative Business As Usual (BAU) — use instead the trends of Western European countries whose demand slowed as energy efficiency measures were introduced.

The BAU’s forecast of 373TWh demand is 34% less than what the government says, and the RDP is even less still.

Question of emissions

Unlike the RDP scenario, in which carbon emissions would peak around 2020 and stay around the same until 2030, both Bloomberg’s BAU and the government’s official plan would see an enormous emissions increase.

The government’s plan, which calls for 145% increase in coal power generation, would see emissions nearly double in the next fifteen years, and would almost certainly bring about a local air pollution problem.

Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg New Energy Finance listed one of the benefits of the RDP strategy as “reduced carbon emissions and air pollution, which has been such a blight for coal-based economies”.

Price wars

The government’s official energy strategy, which will see the production of $20 per tonne lignite more than double in 15 years, is set to cost $400 billion; the BAU scenario will cost about the same; and the far preferable RDP just $6 billion more.

The RDP scenario holds that only coal-fired power plants that have either secured finance or are under construction will come online before 2030.

The controversial Yirca coal plant, which last week was scrapped after the courts declared it illegal, is but one example of the fossil fueled energy that cannot be greenlit should the RDP be introduced.

But whilst that strategy wouldn’t see any spend on coal, or be impacted by fuel market fluctuations, its short-term costs would be far greater than either other plan.

The upside is that costs would be a drop after that initial investment, and even remain a little lower in its middle to late years.