In Turkey: Boosting the Power Supply and Moderating Demand

January 23, 2013

In Bilecik, the Sakharia River rumbles between high rock walls. The Sakharia looms large in the Turkish national psyche. It is the site of a key battle for independence 90 years ago. Now it is a power source, home to several dams. The Sakharia is one of 26 river basins in Turkey.

"Turkey is too dependent on external energy sources. Knowing that the water was already here, doing nothing, 'empty water' as we say in Turkish, we could see that our government and the Turkish people would benefit," says Burhan Ergun, the owner of Darca Hepp, which operates the dam.

Water power already provides for about twenty three percent of the country's energy needs. This dam has been producing power for a year, about enough for 20,000 households a day. And to safeguard the environment, the river's carp and catfish have a ladder to bypass the dam.

"Dams are less harmful than coal and other energy sources," says Deniz Akersoy, the dam's manager. "Small is the key. I see a big future in supporting small hydro projects like this one."

Demand for Energy

In a small country coffee shop, just down the road from the dam, the TV draws customers, and electricity produces the hot water for the tea. Warmth, light, and information all draw customers, and they all rely on energy.

Fatma Ayaz runs the coffee shop with her husband. "Electricity is everything! It is technology—without it, life stops!" she exclaims. "You can't run the washing, watch the TV, you can't clean, you are nothing!"

She's not alone. Rising incomes and living standards means that demand for energy and electricity in Turkey is growing at about 6 to 7 percent a year, and has been for the last twenty years. Predictions are that future demand will continue at those levels. So, in addition to relying on renewables to boost supply, Turkey is focusing on energy efficiency, says Erdal Calikoglu, of the Ministry of Energy. "The bottom line is for Turkey to produce more goods with less energy, so it can become a global player. Turkey's ambition is to become a leading global economy, and so energy use has to be a priority."

Efficiency in All Things, Including the Dishwasher

To cut demand, Turkey has pushed hard on energy efficiency in the last five years, using a massive public awareness campaign, incentives to Turkish companies to use less power and regulations to enforce efficiency. In Ankara, that push is beginning to work. When Fatos Ocak and her family bought a new refrigerator, they spent a little more for one with an A+ energy rating.

" This is the fridge we bought last year. It is energy efficient and it is paying us back on our lower energy bills. "
Fatos Ocak

Fatos Ocak


Not far away, at the Arcelik store in Ankara, a saleswoman says customers search out 'cleaner' fridges and dishwashers. 80-95 percent of the white goods for sale in Turkey are energy saving. "The first thing they pay attention to is," says Mehtap Ozkamci, who works at the store, "is it energy efficient? They ask about the rating, A+, A++."

Turks have replaced 6.5 million lights with energy saving bulbs, some of them after a campaign to get school kids to reduce electricity use, and nag their parents into doing the same. Kaif Gungor runs a small hardware store. He says, "There's been a rise in the number of bulbs I sell that are longer-lasting. I'd say 80-90% of my bulb sales are energy efficient."

"Cleaner" Cement

In Hereke, outside Istanbul, the Nuh cement plant puts a similar emphasis on efficiency. This plant is the single biggest producer of cement in Europe, making 5.6 tons of it a year. Plant managers here use household sludge, or waste, from nearby cities and towns as part of their fuel supply.

They also rely on giant recovery systems to capture excess heat, so it can be re-used elsewhere. The plant's managers say the use of sludge and energy re-capture means they use about 5 percent less coal a year, which amounts to about 30,000 tons less.

And it all starts with the sludge, which no one wants, the plant manager, M. Hayrettin Sener, says. "We try to be an environmentally-friendly company. That is the main project, actually. Otherwise, we used to discharge into the sea or in the ground. It was a waste. But now we dry it, we burn it, we destroy the material." The energy efficient components of the plant were built with the help of a $22 million loan and with support from the World Bank and the Clean Technology Fund. Without that assistance, this clean technology would not be in place here.

A Future for Renewables and Efficiency?

By 2030, Turkish energy experts say, the country will need an additional $130 billion dollars' worth of energy investment to simply keep up with demand. But, in the last ten years, renewable power and improved efficiency have saved the economy the equivalent of 25 million tons of oil. And sustainable energy is already 25 percent of the Turkish energy market. The goals are ambitious—by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Republic, Turkey plans to be 20 percent more energy efficient, and have renewables satisfy 30 percent of its energy needs.