Energy minister: Drought may result in summer electricity shortages

Nationwide drought that has brought water reserves to low levels may reduce the amount of electricity that Turkey is able to produce, said Energy Minister Taner Yıldız on Monday in Ankara, fielding questions from the press after a meeting with members of the Bursa Chamber of Trade and Industry (BTSO).

“Precipitation levels for the months of March and April were not what we had hoped for. We will see in the upcoming months if levels increase, but if they don’t, I will unfortunately have to say that our electrical output will decrease,” said Yıldız, specifically referring to low levels of reservoirs in the eastern and southeastern regions of the country.

Drought in the east and southeast threaten reservoirs in a crucial area, as many of Turkey’s main hydroelectric plants are located in those regions, generating power from dams built around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

“In that case, we will import electricity from Iran, Georgia and Bulgaria,” Yıldız added, perhaps indicating that electric production shortages nationwide would require Turkey to import electricity from countries on its east and west. “When it doesn’t rain or snow, we won’t have water, and if there’s no water we are unable to produce the desired amount of electricity,” the Yıldız said.

However, importing electricity may not be the answer if a major shortage were to take place this summer. “The options are limited as the connection lines do not allow for large imports,” said Oguz Turkyılmaz, chairman of the Board of Mechanical Engineers’ Energy Commission, adding that while he didn’t foresee a severe crisis playing out, it was likely that there would be temporary power cuts throughout the country.

Turkey experienced low levels of precipitation during the period between September 2013 and February 2014, which significantly harmed agricultural production. According to a March report from the Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB), the production of wheat, which was harvested at record levels in 2013, is expected to fall 14 percent this year due to drought. Lack of rain and snowfall caused a variety of crops to bloom early, making them vulnerable to frosts that followed in March and subsequently causing extensive losses and creating a major financial headache for the producers of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and other agricultural products.

Yıldız also announced on Monday that Turkey and Russia agreed to increase the capacity of the Blue Stream pipeline, through which Turkey imports natural gas from Russia. The capacity is slated to be raised from 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) to 19 bcm. Turkey had sought a discount for its gas purchases from Russian Gazprom, but the state-owned firm declined. Turkey imports more than half of its natural gas from Russia.

To meet the country’s rising electricity demand, construction has begun on a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Mersin province, with plans for another plant to be built in the Black Sea province of Sinop.