OPINION: Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of Türkiye,  H.E. Dr. Alparslan Bayraktar.

24th April 2024

OPINION: Why we need to keep exploring for oil and gas, and triple our renewables capacity at the same time.

Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of Türkiye,  H.E. Dr. Alparslan Bayraktar

There is a growing global consensus on the necessity for transitioning to renewable energy sources. It is essential to recognize the nuanced complexities involved, particularly for emerging economies. Factors such as historical responsibility, capital availability, and rapidly increasing quality of life contribute to the intricacies of this process. Several countries in the developing world are becoming leaders in creating pragmatic energy policies to meet the rising energy demand and decarbonize simultaneously while others fail to create meaningful change. Such a transition period is a challenge but also a unique opportunity for a carefully curated solution set to the specific needs of a country. Several questions need to be answered throughout the process. Is the national grid ready to take on a new challenge with the population growing, alongside rising electrification and digitalization? Are we financially ready for such transitions? How ready are we to let go of fossil fuels, do we even need to let go of it completely?

In Türkiye, our energy objectives are multi-faceted including ensuring supply security, affordability, achieving net-zero emissions, and attaining energy independence. Any action should aim to achieve most if not all. For instance, a rapid adoption in renewables capacity contributes to energy independence, lowers the cost of electricity and is the backbone of decarbonizing the energy industry.

Critics may question Türkiye's continued investment in oil and gas amidst global calls for decarbonization. Similar to renewables, increased activities in the oil and gas industry serve multiple objectives. Türkiye’s self-sufficiency in energy rose above 30% only very recently. This achievement has been the result of a balanced approach that includes both renewables adoption and hydrocarbon exploration and production to create domestic alternatives to the country’s oil and gas imports.

The global oil demand remains significant, with Türkiye contributing approximately 1 million barrels per day. It is not feasible nor rational to abruptly abandon fossil fuels without creating alternative pathways that ensure the welfare of our people and maintain our competitive position globally. A transition ignoring the reality may impact public opinion due to drastic increases in energy prices, jeopardizing public support for net-zero targets and turning the transition period into a missed opportunity.

In addition, Türkiye’s oil discoveries came with positive externalities for the region. Gabar, a region previously considered unsafe, is now known for discoveries that excite the entire nation. Rapid investment in the region will quickly bring prosperity to an underdeveloped region. Many who had emigrated in the past decades have returned to the region. A smooth and smart transition rather than a strict transition ensures a win-win conclusion to reach targets. Thus, Türkiye remains committed to a diversified energy portfolio, investing in both traditional and renewable energy sources.

For all nations, but especially for developing ones like Türkiye, we believe that the transition must be responsive, rational, flexible, and digital. The preparation for a smart energy transition comes with the acceptance that we are living in an age of change and innovation. It is essential to be aware of the emerging technologies and the availability of the options to be included in the energy mix. This is why Türkiye is the country that simultaneously hosts the world’s largest nuclear plant construction site, one of the largest offshore natural gas discoveries of recent years, platforms enabling regional trade of natural gas and oil, approximately an 80 GW pipeline of renewable projects, one of the largest rare earth mineral mining sites, a multi-billion-dollar investment plan for the electricity grid and ambitious energy efficiency targets, all at the same time. A collective and holistic approach to energy will give us a resilient national energy system.

The challenge undertaken by almost all countries, many private entities and international organizations have taught us the need for a collective, rather than individualistic approach to address the challenges of climate change. This mission cannot be accomplished alone. We extend an invitation for collaboration with the global community in various areas, including financing, trade, and technology exchange.

As we embark on this journey towards sustainability, it is crucial to recognize the complexities at play, particularly for emerging economies like Türkiye. By embracing pragmatism and collective effort, we are confident in our ability to overcome these challenges and build a brighter, more sustainable future for all.

Let’s change the narrative from energy transition to a smart energy transition. 

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