Cem Gül, Cofounder and CEO of Nuvia, presents smart IoT systems for homes at Future of Energy

Turkey’s energy sector looks ahead to a bright future

In late October, Hello Tomorrow Istanbul and Sabancı University Istanbul International Center for Energy and Climate Change (IICEC) gathered more than 700 leaders in Istanbul to launch a discussion on the future of energy. The aim was to foster connections between key players in this important discussion — public officials, corporate leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs — to accelerate innovations in the energy sector.

Turkey is one of the fastest growing energy markets in the world, parallel to its economic growth. It has increased the competitiveness of its energy market by promoting privatization, while also increasing the share of renewables and nuclear in its energy mix. Faced with a rapid increase in electricity demand, the country is on a path towards ensuring energy security in a low-carbon future.

“It is without question that innovation-driven entrepreneurship represents a strategic asset for a return to growth for the years to come, and game-changing entrepreneurs will remain the leading force of our economy.”

There was no doubt on anyone’s mind that Turkey is at a pivotal moment in its energy transformation, which includes a complex mix of technological development, regulation, investment, and customer and corporate mindsets. As Kıvanç Zaimler, Energisa CEO, argued, there are many challenges to be addressed, from ensuring a steady energy supply to addressing environmental issues; and of course, the looming question of how best to integrate end-consumers into the distribution market as they begin to generate their own energy from solar or wind.

Clean energy is no longer a moral issue. It makes companies better off in terms of their business strategy.” — Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency

Throw into this mix recent developments in energy storage, smart grids, big data, alternative fuels and so forth, and we have a vigorous ecosystem of many different actors contributing towards Turkey’s low-carbon future. This ecosystem consists of a dynamic startup scene that saw exponential growth in recent years, attracting several global accelerator networks. Meanwhile, Turkey is the only country in the world with a Private Market on its stock exchange, enabling business angels and startups to come together — a testament to the country’s support for the startup ecosystem.

Kerim Baran, Cofounder & VP Strategy at CivicSolar, speaks about developing an online solar distribution platform, bringing e-commerce benefits to solar equipment distribution

It is also this young, dynamic and tech-savvy population, with its entrepreneurial drive, that led Cansen Başaran Symes, President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), to remark that Turkey is well-positioned to play a leading role in this energy transition towards a low-carbon economy. “It is without question that innovation-driven entrepreneurship represents a strategic asset for a return to growth for the years to come, and game-changing entrepreneurs will remain the leading force of our economy,” said Başaran Symes.

Dr. Hasan Ali Çelik, Deputy Minister of Science, Industry & Technology of the Republic of Turkey, underscores this sentiment by pushing for entrepreneurship and innovation as cornerstone to the future economy. It is crucial to leverage the synergies between startups, academia and corporates to accelerate innovation, specifically, around energy.

All the reason for which the following talks sought to highlight startups and innovations disrupting the energy market. Entrepreneurs got on stage and talked about innovations along the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) spectrum, from commercialized products to prototypes to scientific visions. The audience got a taste of an evolving energy market, taking glimpses into smarter homes and energy savings (Nuvia), end-to-end energy data analytics platform (Reengen Energy), systems that predict and maintain grid stability (Artesis), and online solar distribution platforms (CivicSolar).

Sahin Caglayan, Cofounder and CTO of Reengen Energy (left) Dr. Ahmet Duyar, Founder and CEO of Artesis (right)

Equally important are lesser-known technologies that hold enormous potential in disrupting the energy market, such as Highview Power Storage’s solution to provide liquid air storage solutions for utility and distributed power systems. Or SolarPaint’s solar paint technologies for irregular-shaped surfaces and Episome Biotechnologies’ green energy from paper waste.

These are just a few examples of innovative ventures, both local and foreign, making a dent in the energy market. The point is that the emerging startup scene puts the country in a favorable position to collaborate with many different innovators who can potentially disrupt the energy market, and accelerate progress towards a low-carbon future.

For huge conglomerates, interacting with startups is an effective way to leverage this innovative mindset.” —Harald Rubner, Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group

This is why exposure is an important first step towards bridging differences in mindsets — from academia, to startups, to large corporations. We’ve all heard criticisms of academia being too theoretical and not practical enough, or of startups needing to focus more on the customer experience, or worse, of large corporations needing to consider startups as business partners rather than a cheap source of IP. Such events bring exposure to different ideas and help bridge the gap between different stakeholders.

The Future of Energy is not a standalone event, but an important milestone for Hello Tomorrow Istanbul — that is, embedding innovative disruption in the Turkish ecosystem by providing a platform to connect corporations, startups, investors, mentors and public institutions. So what’s next? Stay tuned as we continue to add events highlighting Turkey’s best local projects to attract both local and international investors.