Smart City projects in Turkey are fewer in number than in the United States and many European countries. Limited funding, a deficit of qualified human resources, and a lack of Global Information Systems (GIS) infrastructure are the main obstacles. Currently, only 3% of Turkish municipalities have completed their GIS investments or implemented GIS systems, however many cities have begun to introduce smart applications, particularly in transport and urban services.
Accessing services through electronic channels and e-government is the most popular application among municipalities that have begun to modernize their infrastructure, however there is need for smart applications in the fields of energy and water management. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and GIS applications, particularly by electric utilities, gas authorities, water, and sewage administrations, are also needed in major Turkish cities. Smart metering is still in the early stages. To facilitate the development of smart cities in Turkey, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization established a Smart Cities and Geospatial Technologies Department under the Directorate General of Geospatial Informatics, Planning and Coordination, Application and Development. This department has developed a National Smart City Strategy and Action Plan 2019-2022 and leads all national smart city applications, such as city information system software and 3D data modeling development software it hopes will ultimately be adopted by all municipalities and central government organizations.
Smart grid systems deployment has begun in Turkey, and the stages of implementation vary from one DISCO to another. Most have deployed SCADA and GIS systems. DISCOs utilize smart grid deployment to decrease losses while increasing reliability and quality. The Turkey Smart Grid 2023 Vision and Strategy Roadmap established several targets for full smart grid system implementation in Turkey. Several DISCOs have received approval to implement pilot projects using new methods of storing various types of energy. DISCOs are also planning for electric vehicle charging stations. The GoT intends to replace 30% of the 7.5 million streetlights in Turkey with smart LED lighting systems by 2023. This change is estimated to help save the GoT more than $40 million, and over $130 million with further LED conversion in the coming years.
Many Turkish cities are in the early stages of installing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The Ministry of Transport & Infrastructure stated in its 2013-2023 Action Plan that all cities will implement smart traffic light systems according to traffic density; green wave systems where cars, after encountering one red light, pass through subsequent green lights when maintaining a specific speed; digital traffic signs; and solar powered bus stops with digital arrival time boards.
All smart transportation projects are now planned and implemented by local municipalities. Since there is no central ITS institution, it is not currently possible to obtain the total amount of spending or planned spending for all projects in Turkey.
Recently implemented projects include smart bus stops, an online traffic density map, and an online tracking system for fire department vehicles in Ankara; a state-of-the-art traffic management system (including smart intersections, traffic density mapping, and fully automated parking systems) in Izmir; and e-payment cards for nearly all modes of transportation, including ferries, busses, trains, and metros in major Turkish cities. Other cities have shared bicycle systems. Some cities including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Mersin, Antalya, Bursa, Eskisehir have shared e-scooter systems. ITS systems are utilized partially in Eskisehir, Konya, Mardin, Kahramanmaras, Gaziantep, Sakarya, Yalova, Kars, Edirne, and Manisa. In addition, Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul have agreements with a private company providing ‘Minute Car Rental Service.’
In early 2020, Gaziantep completed an ITS system called “Bluetooth Technology” to predict and analyze neighborhood-based arrival times by sharing messages and signs with drivers. Other ITS projects in Gaziantep include smart parking systems, passenger information applications, and plate recognition systems.
Turkey’s accession process to the European Union, though currently frozen, has spurred large-scale environmental remediation and the implementation of new environmental standards. Local municipalities play an important role in recycling, water purification, waste-sewage treatment, environmental remediation, and solid waste management.
Preventing water loss is a priority for Turkish municipalities. The water authorities of some large and industrialized cities have implemented SCADA systems to identify water losses and network failures. However, this system needs to be expanded to less developed regions of Turkey as well.
Turkey is mostly in line with European legislation with respect to waste management and recycling; however, it lacks source separation recycling. Further alignment with EU standards could create an environmental infrastructure and technologies market that will be worth nearly $96 billion. Such alignment could be complete by 2024. Although there are recycling facilities, further development of regional solid waste processing, recycling facilities, and sanitary landfills is needed. The GoT also plans to remediate and upgrade existing unsanitary landfills. Government buildings including public schools and hospitals are expected to switch to source separation recycling. In the coming years, the government intends to start plastic waste collection by incentivizing the public with deposit payback. Some of the larger Municipalities like Istanbul will soon start pilot plastic bottle deposit system projects. Several Turkish cities are implementing waste-to-energy systems.
Turkey, with a robust plastic manufacturing industry in need of raw materials, became a major plastic waste importer after China stopped buying. Regulations for such imports change often due to political headwinds concerning the improper disposal of imported plastic waste by bad actors. Greenpeace Turkey and similar NGOs campaigning to stop plastic waste imports were successful in pressuring the government to put new restrictions on plastic waste in place. Plastic recycling companies can now import only 50% of their raw material to encourage the use of local plastic waste. Turkey also recently banned the importation of ethylene polymer type plastic waste as well as mixed plastic waste. The plastic industry is pressuring the government to change the regulations to maintain the Turkish plastic industry’s competitiveness. Despite restrictions, the recycling market still needs foreign expertise and technologies used by U.S. companies. Sector contacts indicate that U.S. companies with expertise in circular economy and advanced recycling technology have opportunity in the Turkish market.
Turkey has made great strides in improving the monitoring of air quality and has instituted a national air pollution monitoring program. The main sources of ambient air pollution in Turkey are thermal energy generation through coal-fired power plants, home heating units, motor vehicles, and industrial sources. The government is requiring the installation of flue-gas desulfurization units on all new and existing power plants, opening high-value projects in the air pollution control market.
In 2016 and 2018, the World Bank approved loans of $133 million and $91.5 million, respectively, for the Sustainable Cities I and II Projects in Turkey. This program aims to improve the economic, financial, environmental, and social sustainability of Turkish cities by enabling municipalities to access financing for their investments in improving services to their citizens. In May 2019, when all prior funds had been committed, an additional $560 million was approved to scale up projects in the program. The funds are assisting cities by financing investments in infrastructure needed to meet service delivery requirements in the water and wastewater systems, public transport, waste management, and energy services and other areas.
In 2021, Istanbul became the third Turkish city after Izmir and Ankara to join the EBRD Green Cities Program, which identifies, prioritizes, and connects cities’ environmental challenges with sustainable infrastructure investments and policy measures. As a first step, Istanbul and the EBRD will start developing a Green Cities Action Plan to assess, prioritize and address the city’s main environmental challenges through policy reforms and investments. In support of developing a greener, more sustainable Istanbul, the EBRD will provide financial support to the construction of a new 14 km metro line connecting the east and west of the city. The EBRD and Istanbul will also work together to identify investment opportunities in green infrastructure priority areas including urban regeneration, solid waste management, water and wastewater, urban roads and lighting, urban transport, public building energy efficiency, renewable energy, and power infrastructure energy efficiency. Ankara remains in the first phases of the same program. Turkey’s first Green City Action Plan was prepared for Izmir. A syndicated loan of EUR 105 million was provided to Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, which will be used for the construction of the Fahrettin Altay-Narlidere metro line with a total length of 7.2 kilometers including underground stations and electromechanical works.
In 2020, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) launched the U.S.–Turkey Next Generation Cities Initiative to support the development of smart cities across Turkey. The Initiative streamlines access for Turkish partners to the most innovative smart cities solutions U.S. companies offer and will be executed in cooperation with the U.S. Commercial Service. Under this initiative, the USTDA has worked closely with Turkey’s Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change to award four grants in support of smart city development in Istanbul and Gaziantep. In 2022, USTDA will be supporting three additional smart city, IT, and 5G-related projects and is now accepting project proposals.
EXIM Bank also supports U.S. exports to Turkey and has several programs to support sustainable and green technologies. EXIM Bank is authorized to establish a new “Program on China and Transformational Exports.” The Program’s purpose is to support the extension of loans, guarantees, and insurance, to the extent practicable, competitive with the rates, terms, and conditions established by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or by other covered countries. The program charges EXIM Bank with a goal of reserving not less than 20% of the agency’s total financing authority (i.e., $27 billion out of a total of $135 billion) to advance the United States’ ability to compete against the PRC in the following industries:
- Artificial intelligence
- Biomedical sciences
- Wireless communications equipment (including 5G or subsequent wireless technologies)
- Quantum computing
- Renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage
- Semiconductor and semiconductor machinery manufacturing
Emerging financial technologies (including technologies that facilitate financial inclusion through increased access to capital and financial services; data security and privacy; payments, the transfer of funds, and associated messaging services; and efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism)
Water treatment and sanitation (including technologies and infrastructure to reduce contaminants and improve water quality)
- World Bank in Turkey - www.worldbank.org/en/country/turkey
- European Development Bank of Reconstruction (EBRD) - https://www.ebrd.com/turkey.html
- U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) - https://ustda.gov/
- Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) - https://www.exim.gov/
- Ministry of Environment and Urbanization
- Environment Protection and Packing Wastes Utilization Foundation: www.csb.gov.tr/
- Turkish Green Building Institute – www.cedbik.org
- Turkish Informatics Foundation - www.tbv.org.tr/en
For further information on this section or for more on potential opportunities, contact:
Sr. Commercial Specialist
Smart City Technologies Leader