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Interview with Ufuk Sentürk – Chairman of Geothermal Operator Association, Turkey

Jesder Congress 2018 in Ankara/ Turkey, Ufuk Sentürk Jesder Chairman, 2nd from the left (source: JESDER)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 3 Oct 2018

Representing the interest of Turkey's geothermal operators, JESDER is an important association for the geothermal sector. In this interview, the organisation's Chairman Ufuk Sentürk shares some insights.

In Turkey, the Geothermal Power Plant Investor Association (JESDER), essentially an association of operators of geothermal power plants represents about 30 companies. The goal of the association has been to act as a platform of cooperation between the private sector companies working in the exploration for and utilisation of geothermal energy for power generation.

Ufuk Sentürk, as Chairman of the Board of Directors for JESDER has been leading the organisation for many years in a time period where the Turkish geothermal sector has seen an incredibe growth.

Can you give us some information about JESDER and its role in the geothermal sector?

JESDER Geothermal Power Plant Investors Association was established in 2014 and has started to work actively in 2015. The association has been the bridge between public and private sector. Our aim is to announce the problems of the sector to the relevant authorities and to produce applicable solutions to contribute to the progress of the geothermal sector. Our association works with various press organizations and aims to illuminate the public with the right information with the desire to prevent misinformation.

Turkey, in quite a short period of time with a quick breakthrough, became a member of the 1 GW installed capacity geothermal Country Club and now has 1,200 MW installed capacity. What do you think are the main elements of this growth?

There is, of course, a shift towards renewable energy resources in the world. This issue has been studied for a long time and has been increasingly spreading due to the environmental impacts caused by fossil fuels. Turkey also was influenced by this movement and choose to be a country to benefit from this clean resource. Turkey is doing its upmost in both public and private sectors under the current affairs. Although the high cost of geothermal energy investments, which we have expressed every time, makes us worry about investing, we believe that our investors and the government support is a great contribution to invest in our geothermal resource. Especially with the existence of YEKDEM (Support Mechanism for Power Production from Renewable Sources), devoted investments have brought us to this significant point. Of course, our problems are not yet finished, we are still working for new YEKDEM to be applied after 2020, and we are in contact with the authorities about incentives as well as support for domestic production and VAT excise duty. We hope that our expectations will be positive.

The majority of geothermal power plants in Turkey, compared to large scaled units in the United States or Indonesia, consist of smaller production units. What is the reason for this and which GPP has the largest capacity at the moment?

Our country is still new in geothermal power plant investments. Therefore, in order to asses the potential of the reservoirs and to test the sustainability of the fields, the plants are built with small capacity since the risk factor and construction costs of geothermal power plants are extremely high. In order to minimize the risk and apply risk management into physical investments, power plants are constructed with lower capacities. The largest single component is the 100 MWe geothermal power plant located in Sarayköy, which has recently been commissioned by Zorlu Enerji.

The current Feed-in-Tariff system has provided an incentive for turbine manufacturers to build their turbines for the Turkish market in Turkey. What impact do you think this has for the market and customers in Turkey?

It is very important for countries to be self-sufficient. As much as a state depends on outward for resources; the level of prosperity will shrink that much.  As we have seen many other examples, Turkey is one of the countries which are dependent on foreign energy resources. This is the reason why the energy sector, which constitutes a large part of Turkey’s external debts, is indebted. As investors and associations in the geothermal energy sector, we are endeavouring to reduce this dependency,. For this reason, the local production incentives are important for both us and our state.

Having most of our equipment imported is creating a significant risk of cost  for investors. Likewise, if the turbine can also be made in Turkey, these cost will reduce production risks, as well as reduce energy production cost and operations become more efficient. As you know, when the cost of the electricity production is lower, beneficiaries and institutions costs also will be lower. Therefore, the continuation of these incentives is essential for our sector.

How important has been international support, e.g. the programs from EBRD and the World Bank joinedly with TKB (TurkishReconstruction Bank) been in the development of geothermal in Turkey?

These programs are playing an important role in the promotion of Turkish Geothermal Sector. These organizations are aware of the current potential of our country and they are aware of the high costs and risks as well. Therefore, the projects which are prepared with the support of these programs are important for the development of the sector both at home and abroad.

What are your thoughts on the importance on the geothermal direct use in Turkey? What is the thinking of power plants investors on utilizing both electricity generation and direct use? Can you give an example?

We, as JESDER, are working with great effort to maximize the benefits of our geothermal resources. In this context, we are conducting studies for the determination of the potential of Manisa and ?zmir geothermal resources for high-tech greenhouses with the Ministry of Agriculture,  the stuides are progressing rapidly. In addition, JESDER is performing a study with TPIC; in cooperation with TPAO for the use of old petroleum exploration and production wells with hot geothermal fluid potentials for geothermal purposes.

While the current installed capacity has reached 1,200 MW, can you tell us about your future forecasts?

As of the end of September 2018, our installed capacity reached to 1,200 MWe. As we mentioned in each platform, with JESDER support and efforts, our 2020 target is 3,000 MWe and 2023 is 4,000 MWe. We are hopefull fort he future of both the geothermal sector and other renewable energy sectors. Our demands are evaluated by the institutions and we have positive opinions about the continuation of YEKDEM.