Turkey heading toward electricity crisis at full speed

As electricity consumption continues to increase with the extreme heat, the Energy Ministry seems willing to try almost anything to get power to the people.

Turkey heading toward electricity crisis at full speed

As electricity consumption continues to increase with the extreme heat, the Energy Ministry seems willing to try almost anything to get power to the people.

The ministry is increasing hydroelectric dam projects while also re-launching operations in natural gas power plans that were previously halted due to high costs. If production still does not meet the demand, there will be electricity purchased from the private sector.

Recently the ministry suggested that the price of electricity be raised to YTL 0.17 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This raise in prices means privately run power plans, which have a total capacity of 5,700 megawatts (mw), are now able to work at full capacity. Still, while the government is purchasing electricity at YTL 0.17 per kWh, it is being sold for YTL 0.12 per kWh.

Turkish Cogeneration Association Chairman Özkan Ağış said that as the selling prices rose compared to their real generating costs, all the auto producers (the power plants that produce the need of their own facilities first) began to operate in full capacity. Ağış said the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company (TEDAŞ) is selling electricity below its purchase price, adding: "This is not sustainable. The unit prices may go up to YTL 1 in wintertime unless sustainable and feasible prices are settled."

He said if the ministry raises the prices to rational levels, then the private sector can afford to generate more electricity. It also forces people to use less electricity, thus allowing the shortage problem to be solved in the short term.

A factor contributing to the problems is water scarcity preventing the normally high usage of dams for electricity generation. Energy officials say that, if production continues at the same level and rainfall isn't enough in the fall, production may totally stop. Speaking to Today's Zaman, an upper-level official from the energy ministry official, opting to remain anonymous, said water levels are encouraging these new programs, though while are mainly focusing on natural gas, "it is very risky to be dependent on one source at such a strategically important field."

He pointed out that an electricity crisis may occur unless emergency precautions are taken. Some measures should include increasing incentives for energy investments, putting idle plants to work after maintenance and encouraging conscious consumption. "Dependency on natural gas must be reduced to reliable percentages," he said.

The state-owned Electricity Generation Corporation (EÜAŞ) has begun to use natural gas power plants which it had shut down before. In 2002, public electricity generation with natural gas totaled 30.4 percent of all production, after which it declined to 10.9 percent. The gap was met through dams and production in dams subsequently increased from 34 percent to 64 percent in the same period. Declining dam levels then saw plants operating again and their share climbed over 20 percent once more.

Meanwhile the shifts in sources of energy production also attracted the attention of the World Bank. In a report sent to the Energy Ministry and the Treasury and State Planning Organization (DPT), the World Bank officials suggested converting natural gas plants to double fuel power plants, since the country may not get enough natural gas to run the plants especially in winters.

It was also recommended that production facilities be privatized, though only with financially strong and reliable distribution companies. The World Bank had previously warned that the electricity prices should be raised but in this report underlined the importance of supply security.

The report said the equilibrium prices in the Compensation and Conciliation Method (DUY) -- installed by the Energy Ministry to balance the supply and demand from both private and public electricity generators -- were very high because of increasing demand and drought. The World Bank suggested the ceiling price method to prevent this.

Ecevit gov't collapsed from energy crisis in 1979

An official from the Energy Ministry said the electricity crisis may have unexpected results, recalling that the government in the 1978-1979 period stepped down because of power outages. Bülent Ecevit was the prime minister and Deniz Baykal the energy minister until electricity outages reached as much as six hours per day. Ecevit lost in the by-election and quit the government.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 13 Ağustos 2007, 11:19
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