Turkey: Using Solar Energy Sources To Generate Electricity In Turkey

Turkey enjoys a perfect geographic location to develop solar power plants and benefiting therefrom. The Mediterranean Sun Belt goes through the country, placing Turkey in one of the most advantageous positions in Europe for the purposes of generating solar power. Turkey's solar radiation values are similar to Spain's and Portugal's, which have the highest solar radiation values in Europe. Compared to the rest of Europe, insolation values are higher, and conditions for solar power generation are similar to those of Spain's.1

Despite Turkey's abundant solar energy potential (i.e. investment potential in solar energy is projected to be about $60 billion), Turkey's solar energy resources are not being utilized. There are currently no electricity generation licensees to generate electricity using solar resources, presumably because the incentives provided under the Law on Utilization of Renewable Energy Sources for Electricity Generation (the "RES Law") (prior to its amendment) were very insignificant. This has left the country dependent on conventional energy sources and the solar sources as untapped energy generation means in Turkey.

Use of Solar Energy in Turkey: Why waste when we can benefit?

Solar sources have significant potential for exploitation in Turkey in the area of electricity generation. Accordingly, entry into force of Electricity Market Law No. 6446 (the "EML") as well as amendments to the RES Law that have increased the feed-in tariff for renewable energy projects, apart from addressing the overall incentive framework, envisaged, first and foremost, the utilization of solar energy as a renewable source. In addition, the ruling political party of Turkey, i.e. the Justice and Development Party, made an election declaration setting forth their targets for the future, predominantly for 2023 – the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic, and the projects that they will realize in order to achieve these targets if they remain in power until then (the "2023 Targets").2 The declaration sets forth the explicit objective to increase the share of domestic and renewable energy resources in generation systems in order to reduce the country's dependence on other countries, signalling a strong commitment to increase the share of renewable energy resources in generation systems to 30% by 2023 through several measures, including establishment of power plants based on solar energy with an aim to become one of the top ten countries that is generating electricity using solar resources.

Unfortunately, the current practice in Turkey in relation to solar sources is limited to their use in domestic hot water systems. Indeed, solar energy is widely used in Turkey through flat-plate collectors for use in domestic hot water systems (especially in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions). Considering the existing legal framework for electricity generation through solar sources, and Turkey's high potential due to its geographic location and climate, it would be a waste to limit solar energy's use to producing hot water, and not to generate electricity for wider utilization from such sources. In fact, experts emphasize that establishing solar panels in a small portion of Turkey would be sufficient to generate all of the electricity utilized within the country.3 In parallel, according to the 2010-2014 Strategy Paper of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Sources, the targets in solar energy utilization are set as "reaching an installed capacity of at least 3000 MW in solar power by the end of 2023."4

Legal Landscape to Utilize Solar Sources

In order to generate electricity from solar sources, a license must be obtained from the Energy Market Regulatory Authority ("EMRA"). Unlike the license applications for electricity generation from conventional sources, such as hydro, natural gas and coal, the RES Law mandates that license applications concerning generation facilities that are based on solar sources can only be made on a specific date, to be determined by EMRA. In this respect, EMRA announced that it will accept license applications for electricity generation through solar energy between 10 and 14 June 2013.5

In addition, the current legislation introduces limits on established capacity and requirements in relation to land.

  • MW Limit: Under the Electricity Market License Regulation, the established capacity of a single solar power plant cannot exceed 50 MW. Moreover, the aggregate established capacity of solar energy based generation facilities to be connected to the grid by 31 December 2013 cannot exceed 600 MW. The Chairman of EMRA has recently announced that he believes these limits can be amended, should such a need arise in the future, and expects that this amount will eventually be increased to thousands of MWs. This requirement was introduced with the amendments to the RES Law, and has also been followed by a recent amendment in the License Regulation that provides MW limits per facility.
  • Requirement in Relation to Land:On the one hand, solar power plants can only be established on lands, the areas of which are to be calculated according to a special formula determined by EMRA – for each MW of established capacity, a maximum of 20,000 m2 (approximately) land can be utilized. On the other hand, applications that require the establishment of a solar power plant on agricultural land will be automatically rejected.

On a final note, EMRA issued the Communiqué on Measurement Standards for Generation Facilities Using Wind and Solar Energy Sources (the "Communiqué) in order to determine the standards applicable for measurement as per the source.6 The Communiqué sets forth that license applicants are required to submit a report related to the fields upon which the projected power plants will be established. This report must be composed of data covering at least one year (at least six months of which must include on-site measurement data). On a further note, according to the announcement made by the MENR on 4 February 2012, solar radiation that is received by a flat plate must be at least 1,620 kWh/m2.

Future of Solar Power and Roadmap

Turkey is one of the countries with the highest solar energy potential in Europe, yet it fails to convert such potential to capacity in terms of electricity generation. As a result, since the country's energy needs rise daily, and will continue to rise in order to attain the 2023 Targets, it becomes more dependent on other countries for natural gas and oil imports.

However, the second week in June will mark a significant milestone in Turkey's energy history, as the country will receive the first license applications in its history to generate electricity using solar sources during these dates. In this respect, we set forth, below, a basic roadmap consisting of five major steps to be taken to submit a license application for generating electricity based on solar energy, as follows:

  1. Measurement Permit: Obtaining permission for measurement in the field wherein the project will be developed:
  2. General Directorate of Meteorology Appointment for Measurement:Making an application to the General Directorate of Meteorology ("General Directorate") (and officials of the General Directorate will inspect the field within 15 days as of the application date);
  3. Measurement:Measurement for a period of six months on the field following the approval of the General Directorate, and obtaining the data for the remaining six months from the General Directorate's database;
  4. Measurement Results:Submitting the results prepared by the entities covering the data for one year for consideration by the General Directorate 30 days prior to the license application; and
  5. License Application:Submitting the license application to EMRA between 10 and 14 June 2013.

In light of the foregoing developments, together with leveraging the new regulatory framework and the projected targets on the utilization of solar power, the next decade is expected to be a landmark for Turkey's solar energy arena. In that sense, there is no doubt in saying that early runners in Turkey's yet-to-expand solar energy market will definitely make the most of its potential.

Footnotes

1 Werner Weiss, Potential of Solar Thermal in Europe http://www.eeg.tuwien.ac.at/eeg.tuwien.ac.at_pages/publications/pdf/WER1.pdf.

2 Election Declaration of the Justice and Development Party http://www.akhedefler.com/ (in Turkish).

3 Faal Enerji, Türkiye'yi Tuz Gölü Aydınlatır, (accessed on December 18, 2012), http://www.faalenerjidergisi.com/indexdetay.asp?id=760.

4 Ministry of Energy and Natural Sources, "2010-2014 Strategy Paper."

5 EMRA decision numbered 3842.

6 With the recent entry into force of the EML on 30 March 2013, the existing secondary legislation failed to address the issues regulated thereunder and will be amended. In this respect, EMRA has published a draft of the electricity market license regulation (the "Draft Regulation"). Although it is currently in draft form and is subject to further changes, the Draft Regulation, in its current form, repeals the Communiqué, and provides for self-regulation of the measurement criteria.

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