Turkey can boost its geothermal energy potential with the application of risk mitigation tools and more public engagement, the European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC) Secretary-General Philippe Dumas told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of the International Geothermal Conference (IGC Turkey 2019) in Izmir, Dumas said Turkey differs from other European countries with its fast-growing economy and increasing electricity demand.
Turkey needs to utilize local sources to supply this growing electricity demand with a focus on sustainability using fewer carbon emissions, he stressed.
He advocated the use of geothermal energy in Turkey, which as a renewables base load, would be able to provide power 24 hours a day.
"Geothermal is a good option to provide this electricity for Turkey because you need to have a local, and as much as possible the security of clean supply,” he said.
He hailed the developments that Turkey has made in its aim to drill and carry out exploration to facilitate private investor development. As a result, Turkey has good geothermal resources, which was not the case years ago, he explained.
He also commended Turkey for gaining expertise in geoscience and trading and for launching feed-in tariffs to promote geothermal power.
Before geothermal power, he explained that there was only oil and gas research underground.
However, with high demand for electricity, a favorable environment to explore geothermal resources, and with acquiring a good knowledge in this sector, all this converged to allow the rapid development of the geothermal sector in Turkey to the extent that the country has developed over 1 gigawatt of capacity in less than ten years, which Dumas described as “quite intensive”.
- Public engagement is key
He said that Turkey faces the same challenges in carrying out geothermal projects as any other country.
"Geothermal is not riskier, you just have some risk components. You have mitigation tools and de-risking instruments, which you have to apply,” he explained.
Firstly, he cited the example of drilling and not finding the expected source. In this case, he said that this is where de-risking tools come in.
“You can de-risk it with technical instruments, doing more research, and exploration campaigns. Also, some financial instruments can help de-risk," he said.
Secondly, Dumas called for projects to encourage more pubic engagement with geothermal energy to allow greater social acceptance.
"We see that when we engage with local people, it helps to bring about a preferable local environment. We try to involve the people in the project,” he said.
- Turkey's geothermal share needs to be at least 10%
Dumas described the geothermal sector in Turkey as a “plane that is about to take off.”
At first, with good development, the speed increases and exponential growth ensues, which he said was the most critical point.
Maximum speed is needed to launch a plane along with the correct conditions and parameters at the same time. Similarly, in geothermal power, projects have to have the right conditions for success because all the future projects will be even bigger with a sustainable market, he affirmed.
“In the future, Turkey will not be talking about 1.6 gigawatts, but about doubling, tripling or quadrupling that number,” he said.
Although Turkey has come a long way in the development of geothermal, it can still do more, Dumas said.
"The share of geothermal in Turkey's electricity mix is still small. It is still a niche market. We want to do more. But we also want to do it properly. The potential is huge. Minimum 10% is good because geothermal is unique, renewable and base load," he declared.
According to the Turkish Association of Geothermal Investors (JESDER), the estimated power generation potential from geothermal sources in the western regions of the country amounts to around 3,000 megawatts. Currently, the share of geothermal energy in total electricity production is just under 2.4%.
- Incentives for direct use can facilitate investment
Alexander Richter, president of the International Geothermal Association (IGA), also said that Turkey’s geothermal sector has seen a “tremendous and fast development.”
"With development activities, a lively and experienced geothermal sector was established. From developers to service companies to the assembly of turbines, today there is a highly experienced sector and we now see the results with Turkish companies working internationally as well," Richter said.
As with any international geothermal projects, those in Turkey face risks in its resources, sustainable utilization, social acceptance, policies and support schemes, and access to financing, according to Richter.
"In Turkey, resource risk is a strong issue, depending on whether different licenses are covering the same resource or are being tapped by different projects. This creates uncertainties over the management and sustainability for the operation of plants," he explained.
Richter also described the operation of plants and the resulting local impact as important elements in Turkey’s further development. He said the mitigation of the local environmental impact and the social impact on neighboring communities are important, and therefore, local stakeholder engagement is crucial.
Another risk is with CO2 emissions, which he said had been studied in various projects and addressed. However, the uncertainty over the continuation of feed-in tariffs poses a risk for companies who may not be able to acquire sufficient financing to develop their projects.
Turkey's geothermal sector has seen an annual addition of 200 megawatts of geothermal capacity but Richter predicts this will slow down over the next year or two.
Nevertheless, Turkey can reach its target of 2,500 MW over the next five to seven years if tariffs are applied.
Richter stressed that tariffs are key to continuing investment and development and only with the timely announcement will the sector be able to continue.
"As soon as the tariffs are announced things will though kick off again, how fast and to what extent will also depend on the available funding and overall economic situation. But with nearly 1,600 MW installed today, and a slow yet continued development of ongoing projects currently under construction,” he said.
Another element to facilitate investments is through the provision of incentives for the direct use of geothermal resources, as in district heating and for industrial use, Richter said.
"This not only provides further incentives for development but also allows additional revenues for developers and a better economic environment for operators of geothermal plants," Richter concluded.
By Ebru Sengul