Interview: Taner Yıldız

How does the government plan to achieve greater energy resource independence, and how will wind and solar resources play a role in this process?

TANER YILDIZ: Turkey is an import-dependent country – 72% of our energy comes from abroad. To reduce our current dependence on imports, we need to increase utilisation of domestic and renewable resources. The search for petroleum and natural gas, on land or underwater, continues, but we are also working to unleash our wind and solar resources. The installed capacity for wind increased from 17 MW to 1700 MW over the past decade, and we are continuing construction of wind energy facilities. Our objective is to have 2000 MW of installed capacity in 2012, which we will raise to 20,000 MW by 2023. For solar energy, we will soon begin a licensing process for 600 MW of installed capacity, and our 2023 target is 3000 MW. At this time, we are also transferring geothermal fields to the private sector; 62 fields have already been handed over. The investments for electricity generation, heating, greenhousing and thermal tourism are being carried out by the private sector. The government is working to activate thermic and hydroelectric potential; accelerate oil and natural gas exploration; increase mining exports to $20bn; and construct two nuclear power plants by 2023.

In what ways is the government working to attract investment in solar and wind manufacturing?

YILDIZ: Solar energy is the most expensive energy resource. As such, there should be a point at which the price for wind- and solar-generated power will attract investments and earn a reasonable profit. Although we desire to provide cheap electricity to our citizens and industries and increase resource production, we are working to transfer this job to the private sector. Thus, these resources must be competitive without government guarantees, otherwise we cannot keep the private sector alive. We are offering tariffs to balance between the needs of wind and solar producers and the demand in the market for clean energy.

Where does the government see Turkey with regard to future petroleum and natural gas generation and transportation?

YILDIZ: Turkey is located in a region of great geopolitical importance. Turkey’s neighbours have 65% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 71% of natural gas reserves. Our strategy it to become a bridge between the energy-rich countries of the Caspian Sea region, Central Asia and the Middle East, and the European markets. Turkey pursues a multi-purpose policy to ensure energy supply security for itself and its partners. The country actualised east-west and north-south energy corridors rapidly, with projects like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Main Export Oil Pipeline; the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Natural Gas Pipeline; and the Şah Deniz, Nabucco Projects and ITGI. In the field of energy, if Europe wants to realise resource and source diversity, the role and importance of Turkey cannot be understated.

What other natural resources are currently being cultivated in Turkey’s mines?

YILDIZ: Our efforts to develop local natural resources are continuing. Turkey is among the top-10 countries in the world in terms of the diversity of its mines. Of the global total of 90 types of mines, 60 are to be found in Turkey. Both the public and private sectors have increased prospecting through drilling, and the amount of drilled territory has expanded from 100,000 metres nine years ago to over 1m metres today. We have found a new coal reserve of 4.8bn tonnes, increased our own coal reserve by 50% (to 11.5bn tonnes), and in the coming years we will transfer fields with 2.8bn tonnes of reserves to the private sector. This will also bring the profit from the boron mining segment to $800m. Boron is particularly precious, and Turkey has 72% of the world’s reserves. While our production of boron chemicals was 436,000 tonnes in 2002, current production levels stand at 1.9m tonnes. We consider the boron mining segment sufficiently strategic so that at this time there are no plans to see the segment privatised.