Turkey is at a crossroads with regards to its energy future: current government plans foresee decreasing its dependency on gas imports through increased renewable energy capacity, but also with the use of domestic lignite coal, with 32GW currently still in the pipeline. Turkey’s emissions will increase significantly under current policies, but the country is expected to still overachieve its “Critically Insufficient” – but not yet ratified – proposed Paris Agreement target (INDC). This INDC is so weak that it allows GHG emissions to double compared to current levels, even taking the impact of COVID-19 into consideration.
We expect Turkey’s emissions will be 3-5% lower in 2020 than in 2019 as a result of the global pandemic, but will already be back at 2019 levels by 2021. Turkey’s government has not initiated a green recovery: the country’s economic stimulus efforts focus on ensuring employment – especially for those under 25 year olds – and reviving export and production-oriented growth.
The CAT projections show that COVID-19 will have only a limited impact on future emissions, which we expect will increase between 40% and 70% by 2030 compared to today's levels.
Turkey continues to rely on fossil fuels, even though costs for renewables are at record lows. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources announced tenders for coal mines promoting domestic lignite in 2019 and in the same year, commenced construction on the long-delayed 1.3 GW Hunutlu thermal power plant. These developments stand in strong contrast to Turkey’s need to reduce the use of coal in electricity to close to zero by 2030. Meanwhile, the import of liquified natural gas (LNG) reached a record high in 2019, and construction began on Turkey’s first nuclear power plant despite international protest at the inherent risk from earthquakes.
The ongoing reduction in the costs of renewable energy technology and storage means that reliable power can be obtained cost-effectively without resorting to coal-powered generation. In fact, installation costs of solar photovoltaic in Turkey are among the lowest in the world. There is also a slowdown in wind power installations (7.4 GW at the end of 2019), throwing wind energy capacity goals into doubt (20 GW by 2023).
Aside from the Energy Efficiency Action Plan and renewable energy auctions, Turkey has made little progress on climate action implementation, and crucially it still hasn’t ratified the Paris Agreement. In September 2019, prior to the UN Climate Summit, Turkey was considering the financial package proposed by Germany and France with the support of United Nations and the World Bank intended to answer Turkey’s concerns related to ratifying the agreement, but with no outcomes so far. The government appears to be standing still in developing measures that might reduce its GHG emissions: its 7th National Communication (NC7) projections in 2018 have identical projections as the previous version (NC6) as well as the 2015 INDC BAU, while the 4th Biennial Update Report released at the end of 2019 projects almost identical 2030 emissions too. However, the NC7 describes more precisely the policies included within the NC6.
Turkey remains the only G20 country that has not ratified the Paris Agreement. Excluding LULUCF emissions, the target in the INDC is equivalent to a 90% increase from 2018 levels (the latest historical year included in our analysis).
We rate Turkey’s INDC target “Critically Insufficient”. Turkey’s commitment is not in line with interpretations of a “fair” approach in line with holding warming below 2 °C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit. This means that if most other countries followed Turkey’s approach, global warming would exceed 3–4 °C.
In the recently published 11th development plan, Turkey’s primary energy demand is expected to increase by 18% above 2018 levels by 2023, and it targets an increase of electricity production from domestic sources (including coal) of 46% above 2018 levels by 2023, or 66% in total, of which 38.8% must be from renewables. 2018 saw the commissioning of two new power plants in Turkey (Yumus Emre and Çan-2), the Soma Kolin Power Plant, totalling 1,2 GW of additional capacity, started operations in June 2019, and recently started the construction of the long-delayed 1.3 GW Hunutlu thermal power plant although it has faced difficulties in obtaining a permit, as it is located in a biological preservation zone.
The government is continuing to press for large expansion in coal power with close to 32 GW of planned power plants (announced, pre-permitted and permitted) and 2018 saw Turkey breaking its record in domestic coal production, which reached 101.5 million tonnes. Globally, only China is planning to increase its coal-capacity by a higher amount than Turkey. At the beginning of 2020, Turkey closed five coal power plants for failing to invest in the mandated filter installations, emissions measurement and waste processing requirements. The power plants can reopen when they compete the environmental protocols.
Turkey is also embarking on building nuclear power plants (NPP), having announced that three NPP will come into operation between 2023 and 2030. The first, a four unit 4.8 GW NPP at Akkuyu, is the result of a partnership with Russia’s Rosatom. The first unit’s (1.2 GW) foundation was completed in May 2019 and is expected to be fully operational by 2023, while the full four-unit NPP is expected to be operational by 2025. Last year, the European Parliament voted to call on the Turkish government to halt construction of the Akkuyu plant, calling for the inclusion of neighbouring countries in the process and pointing out the risks of severe earthquakes in that region.
The second NPP at Sinop in Northern Turkey is facing difficulties after the Japanese construction partner withdrew from the project. The government is still planning on its construction, but has yet to announce new partners and funders. Discussions are underway with Chinese interests for the third NPP.
In 2016, the government introduced the Renewable Energy Resource Areas (YEKA) strategy, a tender process to procure the production of renewable energy on ‘Renewable Energy Designated Areas,’ (REDAs). The first auction in March 2017 was awarded to a consortium planning to construct a 1GW solar PV plant in Konya for a solar PV power plant production, but construction has not yet started. A 1 GW wind onshore was awarded by auction in August 2017 and the turbine factory in the Aegean city of Izmir is expected to be up and running by the end of 2019. The next scheduled YEKA auction for 1 GW of solar PV projects was intended for the first half of 2020, but increasingly looks to have been postponed to 2021.
While there was a successful tender process in 2017 (1 GW Solar and 1 GW Wind Auctions), the 1.2 GW off-shore wind auction initially announced for June 2018 and postponed to 2019 has not yet taken place. This was followed by the cancellation of the second solar PV YEKA auction, originally planned for January 2019. The last auction to be recorded was awarded in May 2019 for a 1 GW Onshore Wind Tender to Enercon-Enerjisa Consortium (Presidency of The Republic of Turkey, 2019).
Although the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has new plans to install an additional 10 GW of solar PV and 10 GW of wind capacity in the coming decade, and prices from recent auctions show a very competitive renewable energy sector, if the delays for renewables experienced so far were to continue, we are not confident this timeline will be met, and periods of policy uncertainty put off investors and industry actors - which is harmful to job creation (IRENA, 2019a). On the positive side, if Turkey achieves its plan to increase its installed capacity in wind and solar energy by almost 21 GW by 2024, it will be among Europe’s five top countries for the amount of renewables.
Due to its strategic location and the forecasted increasing demand for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) worldwide, Turkey is continuing its efforts to become a gas trading hub by developing its storage and regasification capacities. Its first floating storage and regasification units (FSRU) began operating in 2018 and a second FSRU was commissioned in January 2018 From January to June 2019, the country’s imports reached a record high and in 2018 LNG imports represented 22.5% of total gas purchased. The CAT, however, cautioned in June 2017 that natural gas has a limited role to play as a bridging fuel in the power sector and runs the risk of overshooting the Paris Agreement long-term temperature goal if fully operational or creating stranded assets.