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.