Turkey, Economy

Turkey 'could use more coal' to meet power demand

The increasing demand for energy could see Turkey turning to untapped coal reserves

10.07.2014
Turkey 'could use more coal' to meet power demand

By Bahattin Gonultas

ANKARA 

After a decade of rapidly rising demand for energy, Turkey is looking to reduce its reliance on imported oil and gas, with domestic coal likely to plug the gap.

Experts have revealed that the country’s rich coal reserves could help reduce the trade deficit, provide energy security and cut the cost of electricity.

In this they include lignite, known as brown coal, which is less efficient than higher grade coal and has a low energy value. However, it sits relatively close to the surface and is easier to extract than high grade coal.

Domestic reserves of oil and gas only meet ten percent of Turkey's current consumption and the country relies on costly energy imports to fuel its growing economy, one of the main causes of the $60 billion trade deficit. 

This, coupled with the fact that Turkey is second only to China for its rate of rising energy demand, means the country urgently needs to find fresh energy sources.

According to BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, in 2012 Turkey had coal reserves of more than 2 billion tonnes.

Ayhan Yuksel, head of Turkey’s Chamber of Mining Engineers, said a reliable supply of energy is one of the most important issues facing the country.

Renewable energy forms such as wind, solar and hydro are often suggested as alternative sources to fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

However, Yuksel said: "We cannot say that the country has sufficient knowledge and technology relating to renewable energy."

He added: "When we look at domestic sources for Turkey, the country's coal-based thermal power plants, hydroelectric power plants are an advantage. However, people in this country are nervous about hydroelectric projects, which cause environmental problems."

Last year Turkey generated 44 percent of its electricity from natural gas, with the rest coming from hydroelectricity, hard coal and lignite, according to the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry.

Yuksel said: "In terms of costs, domestic coal has significant advantage compared with other resources in the country."

Although there are numerous problems associated with coal production and use, global consumption continues to climb. It provides around 40 percent of global electricity, according to reports from the International Energy Agency and its rise is spurred by the electricity demand of developing countries.

China consumes almost half of the world’s coal, followed by the U.S., India and Russia. Turkey stands 12th in the world for coal production at around 63 million tones per year.

By 2023, Turkey aims to reduce dependence on natural gas imports, which costs around $60 billion every year. Domestic coal will replace some of this and the Energy Ministry expects coal to supplant $14 billion worth of gas imports.

However, increased reliance on fossil fuels has an environmental impact and Greenpeace claim Turkey is ignoring alternatives like solar installations and small scale renewable energy projects.

A report from the environmental campaign group last year said this are "neither analyzed nor discussed at the policy or project levels."

Turkey’s position is that it contributes to global efforts in adherence with the "common but different responsibilities" principle.

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