A common strategy for the energy transition and an increase in cross-border electricity trade capacity between the EU and Turkiye is advisable given the urgency in reducing dependency on Russian gas with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Julian Popov, the chairman of the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
As the EU accelerates plans to reduce reliance on natural gas imports from Russia, Popov, who is also the former Minister of Environment of Bulgaria, suggests that Turkiye could play a very significant role to this end.
The EU’s plan announced last week to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds in a year includes increasing liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity, rapidly boosting renewable energy generation and cutting demand with energy efficiency measures.
'Turkey is a very important country, in my view, which is very often ignored just because of political reasons and as it is not part of the EU. But I think that is a very serious mistake because the Turkish energy system and European energy systems are partially integrated, and what is happening in Turkey could impact Europe,' Popov said.
He envisages that a rapid increase in alternative supplies in the short and medium-term for energy efficiency and the reduction of consumption would be very important not only for Turkiye but also for Europe, especially Southeast Europe.
Popov advocated for going ahead and holding energy platforms and negotiations that are not linked to the energy chapter of the Turkish application for EU membership because this petition has been delayed for political reasons.
According to Popov, it has become very important that Turkiye and the EU form a common strategy for the energy transition which has become more acute and urgent with the crisis in Ukraine.
- Turkey's massive renewable potential could allow more electricity trade
He recommended setting up an urgent working group or task force between the European Commission and European countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, along with Turkiye, to assess common action for development. He also stressed the importance of developing a partnership between Turkiye and the EU in resolving many energy security issues.
He suggested that a reduction in energy consumption is an area to tackle as well as expanding cross-border electricity grid capacity to allow more electricity trade between Turkiye and the EU.
'Ultimately that will help with the integration of more renewables, wind and solar, mostly because they are intermittent renewables and they need wider areas for connection because, in that way, they balance better,' he said.
Defining Turkiye as 'an absolute heaven for development and renewables and doing so at a low cost', Popov acknowledged the massive renewables potential in the country that is similarly very advanced in hydro and geothermal power.
He cited the experience that Turkiye has in solar heating which is ignored in Europe. He said this simple technology could have a massive impact on heating in Europe which is heavily dependent on gas.
Energy efficiency, demand-side management, digitalization, batteries, green hydrogen are all technologies that can reduce rapidly coal and gas use to help achieve both climate targets and cut dependency on other countries, he said.
- Nature of energy security is changing
The crisis in Ukraine set off alarm bells for energy security, Popov said.
Given the recent global commodity price shocks that have surged to record highs, he said the nature of energy security is changing, with energy security being something much wider than access to gas.
“It is not only about gas or oil but there are a lot of issues and bottlenecks in the supply chain of renewables like critical minerals that are needed for batteries for solar panels or wind generators,' he said.
Gas should only be used where there is no other alternative available amid the energy transition, as this fuel will be phased out in 10 to 20 years.
Instead, he said that financial markets are ready to facilitate the rapid development of renewables and new clean technologies not only for reducing carbon emissions but in tackling the global issue of energy security.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya