The wider eastern Mediterranean region is struggling with energy requirements and political turmoil, energy minister Sunat Atun has said.
He told Turkish daily Sabah that political and energy cooperation between North Cyprus and Turkey has accelerated recently with three crucial projects on water and electricity supply and exploration for hydrocarbons offshore Cyprus. This has strengthened bi-lateral ties between the two countries but will also open new paths to energy supply and change the political status quo, he suggested.
Inclusion of Turkey and the TRNC in projects to convey gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe would lead to a positive influence on energy issues and politics on a much wider scale, said Atun.
The first project of its kind was to convey water via undersea pipeline from Turkey to the TRNC. This came on-stream in October 2015. This provides the north with 75 million cubic metres of drinking and irrigation water annually via 80 kilometres (50 miles) of pipeline. This water could be offered to South Cyprus and other countries in the region, he added. In that way, the project would address the regional issue of water shortages, he noted.
The second project is to bring electricity to the island via undersea cable from Turkey to the north.
An agreement is to be signed by the end of the year, with electricity expected to be transmitted within one to two years’ time, said the minister. Power will be carried to the north from the Akkuyu power plant in southern Turkey and will be distributed from the Teknecik power plant.
Referring to the beauty of the environment in Cyprus, Atun said that using oil-based fuel to supply electricity in the north was no longer economically sustainable nor environmentally friendly.
The TRNC’s demand for energy is increasing as its economy expands, he said. The island should not be be smothered with generators.
Turkey has great energy resources; coal, natural gas and renewables, said Atun. This will contribute to more stable energy prices in the market, he said. Transferring electricity to the TRNC means that this power can also be supplied to South Cyprus, a move which will strengthen economic ties between the two sides of the island, the minister said. This would also help develop trust between the two communities, he said.
The TRNC already provides 400 megawatts (Mws) of electricity to the south from three locations, “If needed, the power that comes from Turkey via the underwater cable system can be supplied to Greek Cyprus and other countries in the region,” Atun said. He pointed out that that both sides of the island rely heavily on generators powered by oil.
The third project is is searching for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean. Atun said that the seismic survey vessel ‘Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa’ had already been surveying the waters since 2015. Turkey and the TRNC signed a thirty year agreement giving Turkey exploration rights offshore Cyprus.
In light of the unilateral exploration activities of the Greek Cypriot side, launched in 2011, Turkey and the TRNC decided to conduct their own researches. South Cyprus had declined their proposal that a joint committee be formed to perform hydrocarbon searches. Atun said that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would not be denied their rights to access local natural resources.
Turkish seismic surveys ended in July and “The data we have gathered so far is very promising and indicates that there is potential in the region. Turkey and Northern Cyprus will act together to unleash that potential, access to natural gas resources and to commercially evaluate it by bringing a drilling vessel which Turkish Petroleum has bought by the end of the year. The vessel will begin offshore drilling after the new year, as Minister Berat Albayrak announced”, said Atun.
In the event that any finds become commercially viable, the TRNC will become a player in the region’s energy field, he said.
He also pointed out that conveying gas finds across Turkey to European markets was the only logical choice. “Our geographical location offers the most lucrative route, particularly considering the investment costs via a route that passes through Greece, which would not be viable at current market prices”.
“Connecting natural gas pipelines from a drilling well in the region to Turkey’s Ceyhan via Northern Cyprus will make us a solution partner for energy. Accordingly, this will redefine our political status”, said Atun.
A solution to energy needs which involves both Turkey and the TRNC will shift the focus of the Cyprus problem from politics to energy, he added. This will create new horizons on the political platform and solve energy problems, the minister said.