At its annual conference in Brussels this year, trade association COGEN Europe granted its Lifetime Achievement Award to the head of the Turkish Cogen and Clean Energy Technologies Association (TURKOTED), Özkan Agıs, in recognition of his ‘efforts to further the cause of CHP … at every level and platform in Turkey, and Europe as a whole, for over 20 years’.

In his acceptance speech, Agıs said cogeneration in Turkey has been ‘like my child’ – and, although he has announced that he will retire soon, we think he will not entirely give up this work. We spoke with him about his long career, his views on Turkey’s energy sector, and his longtime efforts on behalf of cogeneration and CHP.

From Russia with CHP

Now in his 80s, Agıs has worked in the energy sector since his graduation as a young man from Istanbul Technical University. His first role was in operations at the 120 MW Çatalagzı coal-fired power plant, followed by operations and maintenance at the 630 MW Ambarlı heavy oil-fired plant. From 1971 to 1980 he was project manager on several major construction projects including the Gemlik fertiliser complex; DAP AS’s BAGFAS mixed fertiliser plants; and the Iskur phosphoric and sulfuric acid plants. In 1980 he began work for ENKA, Turkey’s leading construction contractor, also as project manager.

He continued to work for ENKA until 2007, managing a number of power and cogeneration projects including the 1200 MW Hamitabat combined-cycle power plant (CCPP) as well as CCPPs in Bursa (1400 MW), Gebze (1400 MW), Adapazari (700 MW) and Izmir (1540 MW). He also worked on the Slononim, Borisov, Tschaikovsky and Krasnodar cogeneration plants in Russia.

‘My interest [in cogeneration] started during the construction of cogeneration plant in Krasnodar, in Russia’s Kuban region,’ Agıs says. ‘ENKA, for which I was working, was awarded the turnkey construction of 2500 dwelling houses in Krasnodar, to be built for Russian military groups. A 50 MW cogeneration plant was an integral part of Krasnodar’s satellite city.

‘The configuration of the plant was composed of 2x EGT/GTG-4 MWe +2x HRSG + 4x 8 MW (heat-only boilers) + 2x hot water storage vessels. The cycle efficiency of the cogeneration system was 90% during peak hours (from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm). We completed construction of the cogeneration system in 1994.’

The Krasnodar project was the most challenging of his career, Agıs notes. According to ENKA, the scope of the project included apartment, social and technical buildings and associated infrastructure, with a total construction area of 285,000 m2 and a 62 MW power and heating centre. During construction, ground conditions were swamped and abnormally low temperatures reached -25˚C. By implementing low-temperature working procedures and accelerated construction measures, ENKA met its deadline.

Ozkan Agis receives his Lifetime Achievement Award from COGEN Europe Credit: COGEN Europe
Ozkan Agis receives his Lifetime Achievement Award from COGEN Europe Credit: COGEN Europe

(The most interesting project for Agıs, he says, was developing a trigeneration system for the Çıragan Palace Kempinski Hotel, a five-star luxury hotel in Istanbul.)

After working at Krasnodar, he says, ‘When I came back to Turkey I submitted this excellent project to the Turkish power investors and energy authorities in Ankara. Many Turkish companies (mainly factory owners) were interested in this project, and they asked whether I could help them with design [of cogeneration plants] and procurement of the major equipment.’ Agıs was interested – and the rest, as they say, is history.

TURKOTED and activism

With his interest spurred, in 1998 Agıs founded TURKOTED, which he headed until 2014 when he handed off to his successor, Yayvuz Aydin.

‘I founded the Turkish Cogeneration Association in co-operation with some equipment suppliers,’ Agıs recalls. ‘The Cogeneration Association helped them in the construction of their own cogeneration plants. These autoproducers were producing their own electricity for their factories; they could sell the surplus electricity to the national grid, and they could also generate steam by recovering exhaust heat losses (from gas turbines or gas engines) for their own factories.

‘These extensive works opened the door for building approximately 400 cogeneration facilities in Turkey (around 7000 MW).’

Over the years, Agıs spent much time and energy promoting the benefits of cogeneration for Turkey’s heat-using industries. From speaking with individual business owners to preparing policy documents in consultation with government, COGEN Europe’s description of him as working tirelessly on behalf of the sector is not exaggerated. Among his activities, he organised symposia, forums and conferences, including conference committees at ICCI, Turkey’s biggest energy event (these committees were the precursors of TURKOTED, he says). He visited industrial zones to share information and demonstrate the feasibility of cogeneration systems for businesses. He joined COGEN Europe and learned about the policy framework that would be needed for the cogeneration sector to take off in Turkey. He held meetings and discussions with Turkey’s policymakers on establishing a free electricity and heat market in the country.

He also helped to shape policy by preparing a draft Cogeneration Directive and a High Efficiency Cogeneration document, as well as working on behalf of incentives and specifying priorities to be recognised for cogeneration systems. His policy work helped to open the way for clean and efficient energy funds, and to bridge the gap between funds and investors to ensure that the money went to the most appropriate investors.

Helping to grow the sector

‘The development of cogeneration was very slow at the beginning,’ Agıs says. While Turkey enacted a build-own-operate law in 1985, ‘investors (autoproducers) were hesitant about taking on the risks involved. Our conference committee (at the early stage our association was not established yet) explained to them about the advantages of cogeneration systems and how to avoid risks.’

‘We spent a lot of effort in encouraging autoproducers in building their cogeneration systems,’ he notes. ‘At the time, the quality of electricity in the system was very poor, and power interruptions were scheduled.’ Cogeneration and CHP were obvious solutions because ‘autoproducers generate not only steam, by recovering the exhaust losses, but could also generate the uninterrupted power which was needed in their own factories or plants.’

Between 1992 and 1995, Agıs says, the total cogeneration capacity installed in Turkey was 500 MW, but from 1995 to 1998 it grew to 2000 MW. ‘However,’ he says, ‘I should confess that some of these cogen plants were built to operate only in the simple (open) cycle mode, to generate only electricity, in order to protect themselves from the damages of frequent power interruption on the national grid.’

Turkey’s first cogeneration plant, a 4 MW system owned by fibre manufacturer Yalova Elyaf, was built in 1992. ‘At that time,’ says Agıs, ‘the natural gas network was only available in the Marmara Region, Bursa, Eskisehir and Ankara (around one-sixth of the country). Therefore, the number of new cogen plants was limited. But after 1995,’ he says, ‘the gas network was enlarged and new cogen plants were built.’ In fact, until 2004 he says Turkey’s development of industrial cogeneration systems was ‘in a Golden Age’. Total installed capacity reached 5000 MW, or 15% of Turkey’s total power capacity.

But, Agıs says, in the next five years only 2000 MW of new cogen capacity was connected to the grid. ‘After 2004, natural gas prices were rising so fast that the existing plants which were in operation were losing money,’ he explains. ‘Consequently, new cogen investments were almost stopped.’

The 2005 renewable energy law resulted in new investors prioritising projects in wind, hydropower, geothermal energy, solar and biogas, with the result that by 2011, ‘nobody was investing money’ in cogeneration ‘unless this investor needs power and heat or cooling energy at the same time,’ Agıs said.

Since 2010 TURKOTED has ‘concentrated on encouraging new mass housing projects to include cogeneration and trigeneration in their engineering deliverables,’ he added.

Today around 400 autoproducers operate cogeneration plants in Turkey, and total capacity has reached around 12,000 MW (18% of the country’s energy mix).

Looking to the future

Agıs says Turks’ ‘awareness of cogeneration technologies is increasing day by day, but this is not enough. In order to achieve the desired success in the cogeneration sector, Turkey needs to develop strategic plans and incentives which support investments. Also, the price rises in natural gas have caused an increase in the electricity production cost and a decrease in the profitability of electricity sales.’

Among the barriers to development of cogeneration systems, he includes the DSO’s reluctance to facilitate cogeneration plants’ connection to the grid; slow progress on legislation regulating the implementation of cogeneration facilities in the residential sector; high taxes on natural gas (and high gas prices) and other fuels used in cogeneration; and a lack of incentives.

However, ‘Despite all of these obstacles,’ he said in 2011, ‘TURKOTED continues to overcome the barriers and spends its utmost effort on providing incentives for cogeneration plants.’ These words are equally true today.

In granting Agıs its Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr Fiona Riddoch of COGEN Europe noted that everyone in the trade group ‘would like to place on record their admiration and gratitude for his efforts to further the cause of CHP’. And with his unwavering support, cogeneration in Turkey, his ‘child’, continues to grow.