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CEELM10 Interview: A Decade of Energy In Turkiye

CEELM10 Interview: A Decade of Energy In Turkiye

Issue 10.11
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Guleryuz Partners Partner Zahide Altunbas Sancak talks about the evolution of the energy sector and their role as legal advisors in Turkiye over the last 10 years.

CEELM: Over the last 10 years, what types of energy projects have kept your team the busiest? How has that evolved over the past decade?

Altunbas Sancak: We have been deeply engaged in a diverse range of energy projects, reflecting the dynamic landscape of Turkiye’s energy sector. Earlier, our focus was on traditional energy infrastructure construction, including conventional power plants. However, as the global shift toward sustainable practices gained momentum, we observed a significant increase in demand for legal services related to green energy projects and energy projects that are more efficient than their fossil counterparts. Notably, our team has been actively involved in waste-to-energy plants and the burgeoning field of battery production, and we have recently started leaning even more toward the expanding area of charging stations for electric-powered vehicles. In the earlier years, we primarily navigated the sector through intricate transactions involving mergers and acquisitions of conventional energy companies, shareholder disputes, and regulatory compliance in retail energy. As the decade unfolded, a paradigm shift occurred with an increasing emphasis on renewable energy sources.

CEELM: Looking back at the last 10 years, what have been your and your team’s most intense periods, and what factors do you believe led to them?

Altunbas Sancak: Those coincided with landmark moments in Turkiye’s energy landscape. The rapid expansion of green energy projects, such as waste-to-energy initiatives and battery production facilities, demanded innovative legal solutions. The surge in corporate transactions within the energy sector also contributed to particularly intense periods, driven by a combination of market dynamics, regulatory changes, and the pursuit of strategic partnerships. Additionally, our involvement in shareholder disputes within major energy firms presented unique challenges.

CEELM: How have the profiles of energy projects evolved over the last decade?

Altunbas Sancak: The last decade witnessed a remarkable evolution in the profiles of energy projects, with a noticeable shift toward sustainable and environmentally friendly initiatives. Traditional energy projects, while still relevant, have been supplemented by a surge in green energy projects, reflecting a growing emphasis on sustainability. This all actually underscores a broader global trend toward cleaner, more innovative energy solutions.

CEELM: What new expectations do you see emerging from clients in the energy sector?

Altunbas Sancak: Client needs in the energy sector have evolved in tandem with the industry’s transformation. There is a growing demand for legal counsel well-versed in the intricacies of green energy projects, reflecting the increased emphasis on sustainability. Clients now expect comprehensive legal support in navigating the complexities of renewable energy regulations, project financing, and ensuring compliance with evolving environmental standards. This need is not only applicable to renewable start-ups and scaling renewable energy companies who are definitely in need of increasing levels of legal guidance to navigate the European and Turkish standards in the renewable energy sector, but also to conventional energy companies who are in need of more legal advice than ever due to the increased levels of regulation in fossil fuels and other conventional energy sources.

CEELM: What have been the main recurring challenges faced in facilitating energy deals and projects?

Altunbas Sancak: Navigating the legislative and regulatory landscape in the energy sector has been a continuous challenge. One recurring challenge has been the need to adapt to evolving environmental regulations and compliance standards. The dynamic nature of these regulations requires our team to stay vigilant and proactive in ensuring that our clients’ projects align with the latest legal requirements. The challenge in the renewables mainly arises from the need to comply with European and Turkish standards in a relatively new area, which means it is subject to change and adjustment over time, hence requiring exceptional legal awareness to ensure full, future-proofed compliance for both Turkish and European markets. The challenge in conventional energy, on the other hand, is to ensure the maintenance of legal compliance in a time when the legislative and regulatory trend is clearly moving increasingly toward the restriction of fossil fuels and the promotion of renewable energy. Additionally, regulatory hurdles in obtaining permits and approvals for energy projects, especially in the renewable energy space, have been a persistent challenge. The need for legal advocacy in overcoming these obstacles has been a key aspect of our practice.

CEELM: What is on the horizon for the energy sector?

Altunbas Sancak: We anticipate the energy sector to undergo further transformative changes. The adoption of advanced technologies is likely to play a pivotal role in enhancing efficiency and transparency within the industry. We foresee an even greater emphasis on renewable energy sources, with innovations in energy storage technologies and a continued shift toward decentralized energy systems. The next decade is expected to witness an increased focus on international collaborations, especially in the context of cross-border renewable energy projects. As the global community intensifies efforts to combat climate change, we anticipate a more interconnected and sustainable energy landscape.

Guleryuz Partners is CEE Legal Matters' Practice Leader for Energy in Turkiye for 2024 – learn more here.

This article was originally published in Issue 10.11 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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