TBY talks to Taner Yıldız, Minister of Energy & Natural Resources, on the hunt for shale gas, the implications of nuclear energy for Turkey, and the significance of coal in the energy mix.

Taner Yıldız
Before entering politics, Taner Yıldız worked for the Kayseri Electricity Generation Company, where he became a Board Member and General Manager. In 2002 he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Kayseri and served as energy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In May 2009 he was appointed Energy and Natural Resources Minister.

How would you characterize the opportunities for international investment in Turkey's energy sector?

Turkey has been considered the most trustworthy country by investors for the past 10 years. With the energy sector becoming a significant factor in the expansion of the Turkish economy, domestic and foreign investor interest in this area is growing, which is a reflection of Turkey's political and economic stability. In 2011, $4.2 billion of FDI was contributed to the energy sector. This is the result of political stability and sustainable development in Turkey. I hope that the energy sector will be most popular sector again in 2013; since Turkey is developing, the growth of the energy sector is growing faster than Turkey itself.

What impact will the planned nuclear power plants at Sinop and Akkuyu have on Turkey's economy over the long term?

Nuclear energy is of utmost importance for Turkey in terms of ensuring energy security and reducing our dependence on energy imports. The nuclear power plants to be constructed in Akkuyu and Sinop are estimated to generate 80 billion kWh of electricity annually. In order to obtain the same amount of electricity from a natural gas plant, 16 billion cubic meters of gas would be needed annually, imported at a current cost of $7.2 billion. For the price of three years of these natural gas imports, a four-unit nuclear power plant could be established in Akkuyu. That's why it is important for Turkey to have nuclear plants. We aim to have three nuclear power plants functioning by 2023 and plan to generate 30% of total electricity demand from nuclear sources.

What role will renewable energy play in Turkey's energy generation strategy?

Turkey is rich in terms of renewable resources. In geothermal energy resources, for example, installed capacity rose from 20 MW in 2002 to 162 MW. Regarding wind energy, a rapid increase in terms of installed capacity—from 20 MW in 2002 to 2,337 MW—has taken place. In 2002, the installed capacity of hydroelectricity was 12,241 MW, a figure that has now reached 19,874 MW. For solar, license applications to the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA) started being issued in June 2013. We aim to have installed capacity of 20,000 MW for wind, 3,000 MW for solar energy, 20,000 MW for hydroelectricity, and 600 MW for geothermal. By 2023, we aim to increase the portion of renewables in the energy mix to 30%.

How would you characterize the potential for shale gas to play a major role in meeting Turkey's energy demand in coming years?

We hope to find shale gas reserves large enough to help reduce Turkey's energy import dependency. The search for shale gas deposits has been focused on the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, where the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) is drilling exploratory wells as part of a joint project with Shell. TPAO has stepped up its efforts in Central Anatolia and found traces of shale gas in the central provinces of Ankara, Kırşehir, and Konya. Efforts to find shale gas are necessary as Turkey's energy needs are growing. In this context, we intend to continue exploration and make use of these resources for the good of the economy.

What steps is the government taking to promote investments in coal power generation?

Coal is one of the most important domestic resources for Turkey. The potential of domestic resources that can be used from lignite power in electricity generation is 120 billion kWh/year, and 44% of that potential has been evaluated. We developed a new model to produce power from coal, and investors in the project will have only six months to prove their commitment because Turkey does not have any time to lose. The country plans to reach about 18,000 MW of electricity generated using coal, and we will support serious investors for 30 years.