Time for us to take our place under the sun - HATICE KARAHAN

Time for us to take our place under the sun

I reached a striking conclusion after immersing myself in data from the 3rd quarter over the weekend: Excluding energy and gold, the annualized current account deficit displayed a negative trend during this period. In other words, the balance in this infamous current account deficit of ours was in the black if we exclude the trade in energy and gold.

The first message I derived from this was that economic activity, excluding energy, proceeded without imports heating up during this period where growth has been modest…However, I think the real message is how vital the issue of energy dependency is.

One of the basic solutions when it comes to this topic is renewable energy. I will touch upon one aspect of green energy, which is multi faceted, and that is solar energy…

THE WORLD HAS TURNED TO THE SUN

Let us take a look at global figures first. The use of solar energy, which was at a level of 2 GW globally in the 2000s, grew at a rapid rate on the back of measures taken after 2010 and had reached a level of 139 GW in 2013. Using the photovoltaic (PV) system, this corresponds to the electricity needs of 70 million households across the planet.

On a regional basis, Europe is in a leading position… On a country level, China is hot on the heels of the leader, Germany, with incredible levels of investment in the field. Italy, Japan and the United States follow… In short, after taking into account the average speed of development, solar energy is in serious demand all over the world.

WE SHINE WHEN IT COMES TO THE SOLAR MAP 

Let us return to ourselves… The high potential that exists in the zone we find ourselves in i.e. more than seven hours of daily sunlight and the significant level of heat radiation makes Turkey one of the lucky countries.

The clearest way to explain this and the opportunity we have, I think, is by stating that the area that receives the least amount of sunlight in Turkey has more heat radiation than the area that receives the most sunlight in Germany, which, if appropriate, can be said to be “exploiting the sun.”

Are we utilizing this potential to generate electricity? At the moment it is at such a low level that we could say no. We are in the infancy stage of this project. Let us cast a glance at what has been done thus far and what needs doing.

PATH OPENED FOR UNLICENSED PRODUCTION

Studies carried out to expand PV systems so that the sector could play a more efficient role in meeting national electricity needs were completed in 2013. One of the most striking amidst the relevant articles was allowing the “unlicensed” production of electricity in cases where the maximum installed power was 1 MW.

More was to follow. In the National Real Estate General Notification published on Feb. 7, there was an element that would further energize the sector and there was talk of unlicensed electricity generation based on renewable energy resources sited on immovable properties belonging to the Treasury. Excitement grew in the sector and many investors -- who saw this as the tonic to cure their problem of land -- began the process, which lasts 3-4 months, of renting land.

THE LAND INCENTIVE FACED A DEADLOCK

Investors, who exerted serious efforts and spent a lot of capital in order to meet the requirements of tens of institutions, faced an obstacle in the shape of the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry when it came to the renting stage.

This is because despite permission granted by the Finance Ministry with regard to such plots, the Energy Ministry has blocked the renting of these plots. The reason given to those that ask about this contradiction is that since these plots are large, they should be allocated for licensed projects rather than unlicensed ones…

Let us question this from a few angles. First question: What is the progress with regard to these licensed projects that have been prioritized? Upon examination it is revealed that during the application process for 600 MWs of licensed capacity, tenders were issued for just two areas and those with winning bids have not been able to obtain their licenses as yet. It remains unclear when the tender will be issued for the remaining 590 MW capacity. This shows us that the process is not even working when it comes to licensed projects. This, in itself, is a problem.

Based on this, let us ask the second question. Why is it that licensed projects, which carry so much uncertainty, are cited as reasons to impede unlicensed projects that can be put into action more quickly?

It seems that concerns over efficiency are cited in this instance. This, however, is not a realistic approach since efficiency is not the issue when it comes to solar energy-run power plants that are based on units. There is no variation in efficiency whether it is a 1 MW or a 50 MW PV power plant. These are after all plants based on units.

No, the issue is not based on power plants. If it is inefficiency cited on a basis of area, then as long as sub stations have enough capacity, a whole range of 1 KW unlicensed projects can be lined up alongside one another. If such implementations exist on privately-owned plots, then where is the problem?

OUR ENERGY IS SPENT ON BUREAUCRACY

In this context, and combined with the sudden halt in the process, many projects risk being shelved that could have come on line in 2015 and were estimated to generate about 200 MW of electricity in total. If a solution is not found, then based on regulations implemented by the Finance Ministry, investors, who expended serious amounts of time and cash will be left hanging, and we will have turned our backs on this opportunity that would meet the needs of 100,000 households. I am not even taking into account the accrued investment and energy potential that would be added if the obstacle is removed…

Studies in recent years in regard to green energy were a cause of hope for both the sector and for Turkey, but the current bottlenecks are putting a dark tinge on these hopes. Whereas, the local energy generation plan, which includes solar energy, was among the first articles in the reform package announced by our prime minister…

Land owned by the Treasury has become a dead end for “unlicensed” projects that are raring to go and have already traversed part of the road in privately-owned projects, while “licensed” projects can’t make any progress when it comes to solar energy. Our state needs to solve these problems and stand behind both our investors and our national energy goals.

In this sense, the Energy Ministry and the Finance Ministry need to urgently find a solution amongst themselves with regard to this topic. Plots should be handed over to “unlicensed” investors who have obtained all prior permissions and are just waiting to rent these plots. On the other hand, the process of “licensed” projects, with no clear path forward, should be dealt with to make them viable.  

It is time to put an end to wasting our energy on bureaucracy.

Energy, which is the casus belli of our age, means power, freedom, security and development. Is there anything that surpasses this?

It is “time that we take our place under the sun.”

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