As Turkey works to increase the share of renewable energy sources, it is adding nuclear power to the country's energy mix to reduce import dependency, maximize the use of domestic resources and combat climate change. The country has also drawn out an energy policy that looks to secure national energy supply and meet future demand by using energy efficiently and limiting imports. One of the key elements the policy focuses on is the tension regarding natural gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, near the coast of Cyprus. Turkey has consistently objected to the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling activity in the area, which has commissioned American, French and Italian energy giants, including Exxon, Total and ENI.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said that Turkey's first drilling vessel, Fatih, started its first deep drilling in the Mediterranean off the coast of Antalya.
Saying that Fatih is capable of drilling at 4,000 feet, Dönmez said the vessel will start working at new locations next year. "I hope our second drilling ship will reach Turkey by the end of January. After installing the necessary equipment, the second vessel will start drilling within the specified program. We plan to do at least two deep-sea drillings annually in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea," Dönmez added.
He said that Turkey launched shallow sea drilling off the coast of the Mediterranean city of Mersin last month. The drilling will continue for two months, before being moved to the southern province of Adana where Karataş-1 well will be opened. "We have always defended this: If there is oil or natural gas, we will find it. We analyze all scientifically collected data and benefit from using the latest technology.
He said that the number 10 parcel was outside the license areas determined by Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Dönmez said that the Greek Cypriot administration had no right to sign agreements that ignored the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
"We have warned South Cyprus a few times. We stressed that the Greek Cypriot side's unilateral and illegal move in the region would certainly have consequences," the minister said. He pointed out that if the Greek Cypriots continue to carry out search operations and drilling activities in disputed areas, they will respond accordingly. The energy minister said it was difficult to reach a comprehensive settlement on this issue unless there was a fair share between Turkish and Greek Cypriots on the island.
Turkey has always used negotiation channels in this regard and has always taken constructive steps in order for diplomacy to work, Dönmez said.
He added that Southern Cyprus follows a policy based on non-resolution by abusing its European Union membership. "It should be well known that we are the primary components in this region and to this day anything we have never wanted does not happen, and we will never allow it to happen."
Dönmez noted that action against this situation means not knowing the history and the realities of the region.
Natural Gas exploration in the Black Sea
Commenting on Turkey's petroleum explorations in the Black Sea, the minister said that Turkey currently has a natural gas platform in Akçakoca known as the pearl of the western Black Sea.
"We are now doing seismic exploration activities with our Barbaros Hayrettin and Oruç Reis seismic ships with our own human resources and local equipment," Dönmez said, recalling the drilling operations Turkey previously carried out in the Black Sea with the world's leading companies.
He stressed that data collected by the two seismic vessels were analyzed in detail. The minister said that oil or gas should be found in wells to be opened to determine the actual amount of reserves in the region. He added that the estimated reserve and commercial size of the site would be revealed after the test results.
Considering the structure of the region, promising results can be obtained from Turkey's activities in the Black Sea, the minister said. With the arrival of the second drilling vessel, activities in the region will be further increased.
TurkStream is an export gas pipeline set to cross beneath the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey and from Turkey's borders to neighboring European countries. The sea section of TurkStream was completed on Nov. 19 and a ceremony was held with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin present. TurkStream consists of an offshore segment of 930 kilometers and an onshore segment of 225 kilometers in Turkey.
With the two lines, the Turkstream project has an annual gas delivery capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters, each with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters. While the first line will provide natural gas for the Turkish market, the second line will deliver the commodity to European countries via a route passing through the Balkan nations by 2020.
Though the geopolitical and political risks experienced in the region created a negative situation in terms of Turkey's supply security, Dönmez said that due to the TurkStream project, Turkey will be the first recipient of Russian gas and the risks arising from transiting will be reduced to zero.
"Along with Turkey's economic growth, its demand for energy increases as well. The demand for natural gas in households will increase every year, but this increase in electricity production and industry is only due to competitive prices. Meeting this demand in a safe and sustainable way is of great importance," he said.
Around 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas will be transported annually through the TurkStream project, while half of this gas will be used in Turkey. Dönmez said that most of the gas would also play a fundamental role in the protection of the system balance in peak periods in areas where energy is used intensively.
Since Turkey will play an important role in energy supply security in Europe with the activation of the TurkStream project, Dönmez said that some Balkan countries have started to negotiate with the EU to receive gas from TurkStream, adding that Turkey welcomes this development.
Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant
Asked if the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant – set to come online by 2023 – will provide safe energy, Dönmez said that the VVER-1200 type reactors have the highest security standards and use the latest technology. "It will be the models escalated by thermal efficiency, momentum and power," he said.
He added that the four reactors at Akkuyu NPP will produce 4,800 MW of electricity, meeting 12.5 percent of Turkey's annual energy demand, which is equivalent to Istanbul's annual electricity consumption.
Since nuclear power plants will become one of the most important components of Turkey's energy mix, Dönmez said: "To generate the equivalent electricity produced by Akkuyu, we would have to build a 6,585 MW imported coal power plant or a 6,400 MW natural gas power plant. We would have to import 13.5 million tons of coal or pay $1.8 billion for natural gas annually. In comparison, Akkuyu NPP will be more cost-effective and reliable in the long run."
With regards to the third nuclear power plant, which is likely to be constructed with China, the minister said a certain location has not yet been determined. Previously, the northwestern Turkish region of Thrace was highlighted as a possible location for the third nuclear power plant.
After the location is determined, the relevant procedures will be carried out for licensing and other permissions and the economic analysis of the nuclear power plant will be conducted to design a cost-effective investment, Dönmez said.
Energy ministry's new regulations on energy
Evaluating works carried out by the ministry, Dönmez said that the ministry paved the way for consumers to produce their own electricity with new regulations regarding energy efficiency applications.
"We also removed fees, taxes and other expenses. With rooftop solar plants, we allowed consumers to sell some of the electricity they produce. Our fundamental goal is to change the identity of traditional electrical subscribers and make them transform into self-generating-consuming-selling subscribers." Dönmez continued.
Dönmez said that the ministry, which shared the National Energy Efficiency action plan with the public in the first quarter of 2018, determined 55 actions in six areas related to buildings and services, industry and technology, energy, transport, agriculture and all sectors.
The minister added that by 2023, the ministry would invest $10.9 billion in energy efficiency. However, by 2033, the amount of savings to be achieved would reach 2.7 times the value of investment – $30.2 billion, Dönmez stressed.
Recalling his previous statement when the natural energy and mining policy was announced to the public, Dönmez reiterated that an energy independent Turkey requires the efficient use of local resources and that some important steps had been taken recently.
"We have increased the share of domestic resources in electricity production by over 50 percent. We are among the countries that increase the share of renewable energy in installed power. We have seen the highest levels in the history of the Republic of Turkey in the production of domestic coal. We have brought a new energy source like nuclear energy to our country. With our new natural gas pipelines, floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), LNG and natural gas storage facilities, we have engaged in vital investments to ensure our natural gas supply security. To minimize political, geopolitical and economic risks, we aim to reach a controllable level in the resources we depend on," Dönmez said.