Turkey and coal

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This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Turkey and coal.

Turkey emits 1% of the world's greenhouse gas, 1/3 from coal, but government subsidizes new coal-fired power plants. Dirty lignite pollutes city air when burnt to heat older buildings. Turkey has large reserves of low grade lignite, and power stations also burn an increasing amount of imported coal. Coal is much subsidized, as the government claims that is required to meet the energy needs of the growing population and economy without a large import bill. Turkey has almost no natural gas reserves and most gas is currently imported from Russia. But gas supply is being diversified and Turkey is establishing a gas trading hub. Solar photovoltaic module manufacturing is due to begin soon but, despite abundant sunshine, the total solar electricity target for 2023 is far less than the increase planned for coal. But coal fired power projects face strong public opposition.



From 2000 to 2014 almost 100 miners died in accidents every year on average, and most mining accidents occur in coal mines.[1] Per GWh of electricity generated Turkey's mines are the most dangerous in the world[2] and unlike other countries fatality rates are not decreasing.[3] Worker death statistics are no longer published by the government.[4]

Air pollution

Annual premature deaths are estimated as 2800 mainly via lung and heart diseases.[5]

Injury and illness

4300 hospital admissions annually are estimated to be due to air pollution from coal.[6]

National energy and mining policy

The national energy and mining policy (Milli Enerji ve Maden Politikası) was announced in April 2017 by Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak.

The ministry, under the slogan and hashtag #BizimKömürümüzBizimEnerjimiz (our coal our energy)[7], aims by 2023 (the 100th anniversary of the republic) to have increased the coal-fired installed electricity generation capacity from the current level of 17 GW to 30 GW. [8]



Coal receives multiple subsidies [9] totalling over USD730m in 2013. [10]


In addition to current healthcare costs extra are expected in future due to climate change. [11]


Future Chinese investment is uncertain as it is not yet (end 2017) clear whether China's recent environmental cleanup at home will extend to investments in other countries.[12]

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Because Turkey's coal-fired power stations mainly burn lignite, which produces more CO2 than most other types of coal, for every kWh of electricity generated by coal about 1kg of CO2 is emitted. [13] Coal's share of Turkey's total greenhouse gas emissions is about 33% [14].

Paris climate change agreement

Turkey has signed, meaning that it is now obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat the treaty's object and purpose. However it is the only Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development country which has not yet ratified the agreement and is therefore not legally bound by the terms of the treaty. The treaty implies that OECD countries need to phase out coal use in power plants by 2030. [15]

Building heating

Some older buildings are still heated by burning coal even in urban areas, where natural gas is available.



5.4m tonnes of coking coal and 0.7m tonnes of anthracite were imported in 2015 to use in steel production.[16]


4m tonnes of petcoke and 3m tonnes of coal were imported in 2015 to use in cement production.[17]

Power generation and transmission

The installed capacity of the Turkish electricity system is currently 80GW [18] and due to the rapidly growing population and economy 120GW is forecast to be required by 2023.[8]

On average electricity is transmitted from the east of the country to the west.

Per-capita energy use in Turkey is low, however energy demand has grown rapidly. A Deloitte report from 2010 reported that lignite and hard-coal fired power stations between them accounted for 24% of the installed capacity of the system. Approximately half the coal used for power generation is imported.[19] With a young population and a rapidly growing economy, the installed capacity is projected to grow rapidly.

Turkey’s natural non-renewable energy resources consist almost exclusively of lignite and small amounts of hard coal, however the country is heavily dependent on imports of coal, oil and gas. It is estimated that the country imports approximately 72% of total primary energy needs.

The Turkish government is in the process of privatising what remains of the publicly owned electricity industry. Ahead of sales of generation assets the government has sold a number of the regional distribution companies in the hope of creating a competitive environment which stimulates further investment in generation. The Turkish electricity generation system, which was dominated by publicly owned EUAS, has been progressively opened up to private power generators. In November 2017 four thousand miners occupied a mine in Zonguldak to protest against privatization.[20] (See Privatisation of Turkey's power industry for more details).

Isken(OYAK and Steag)'s 1320 megawatt coal-fired Sugözü Power Plant was the first privately owned power station in Turkey. The power station, which is located at Iskenderun, is based on imported coal.

Main alternatives to coal in Turkey

While the government have flagged its desire to have a massive expansion in coal-fired power stations, some analysts are unpersuaded. One noted in mid-2012 that not only were most of the country's coal resources low grade, and therefore relatively expensive to generate electricity from, but that two tenders over the previous decade for two 1,000 MW plants to use coal from the Afsin Elbistan coalfield only attracted one bid.[21]

There are also risks that the government will lock itself into expensive power purchase agreements from privately owned plants. David O'Byrne writing on a Financial Times blog reported that "as one potential bidder explained to the FT, even if plants were given the coal for free, there is no guarantee they would be profitable without offtake guarantees - which Turkey is loathe to offer because of the upward pressure they put on power prices."[21]

Natural gas

As the country has no natural gas fields Turkey imports about 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually, which worsens its current account deficit. 40bcm of that is supplied via pipelines under long-term oil-linked contracts with Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan. However 20bcm of these contracts mature by 2025 and Turkey is rapidly expanding its facilities for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), thus obtaining cheaper gas and security of supply [22] as a hub [23] of the global gas market. [24]

Nevertheless, although Turkey's gas-fired power plants are much cleaner and emit less than half the CO2 per GWh of its coal-fired plants, that CO2 and gas distribution leakage in Turkey also contributes to global warming. (ref Atilgan) Also, in part due to increased use of gas for residential heating as the distribution network expands further, Turkey's future gas import bills are difficult to predict.


Turkey has 26GW hydropower capacity, which generated about a quarter of its electricity in 2016.[25]. Unlike its coal-fired plants, most of Turkey's dams could be used to provide dispatchable power, that is flow could be quickly increased or decreased to cope with varying electricity demand or to complement supply from variable renewable energy sources such as wind or solar.

Although big new dams may damage the environment and relations with downstream countries, small hydro plants are claimed to be environmentally friendly and many more could be constructed in rural areas [26], mainly in the east. However it is claimed that pumped storage is not economically viable. [27]


2 nuclear plants are under construction and a third is planned. The dispatchability of Turkey's future nuclear plants is not yet (2017) public knowledge but it has been claimed that further expansion of nuclear could help tackle the intermittency of solar and wind.[27]


Potential wind energy, mainly in the west, is estimated at 48GW. Installed capacity at end 2016 was 6GW[28]. Capacity is being expanded and turbines will be locally manufactured, aiming for a national target of 20GW by 2023.


The 2023 target for solar is 5GW, which has been criticised as unambitious.[29] It is claimed that solar could be used instead of coal, with all coal plants being phased out by 2050. [30]

Coal mining

Most of the coal mining operations in Turkey are undertaken by government-owned companies. Turkiye Taskomuru Kurumu Genel Mudurlu (TTK) mines hard coal at five mines but mostly near Zonguldak in the western Black Sea region. Turkiye Komur lsletmesi Kurumu (TKI) mines lignite in Afsin-Elbistan in southeast Anatolia for domestic power stations. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that in 2010 approximately 3.7 million tonnes of hard run-of-mine coal was mined in Turkey and 74.4 million tonnes of run-of-mine lignite.[31]

Coal fields

Turkey has low proven reserves of anthracite, also known as hard coal, about 500 million tonnes concentrated in the Zonguldak basin. But 15 billion tonnes of lignite are found across the country. [32]

Existing power plants

Coal generates about one third of Turkey's electricity. [32] Coal-fired power stations in Turkey are generally near the coast for hard coal imports or near coal fields.

Environmental problems and protests at existing plants

Activists board one of the world's largest coal platforms at Botas Oil Terminal, stopping barges from importing coal to the Sugozu (Isken) coal fired power plant.
  • Yatağan plant: Constructed in 1976, this 630 MW power plant lacked a functioning waste-gas filtering system for 30 years. According to one press report, thousands of local residents filed complaints, and the trials linked to the plant became "one of the staple cases at the European Court of Human Rights."[33] The plant has been the target of a campaign by Greenpeace since 1994. The plant has long been considered a blight on the scenic Aegean coast.[34]
  • Kahramanmaraş plant: This plant operated without a purification system for 20 years, damaging local agriculture and leading to complaints from local citizens. [33]
  • Muğla’s Gökova plant: This plant is credited with ending efforts to develop the area as a nature-tourism destination.[33]
  • Sugozu power station: In September 2008, four climbers from Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior were arrested after they occupied a giant coal loading platform to prevent a delivery of coal to this coal plant, which emits 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.[35]

Proposed coal plants

According to a Reuters report, Turkey is planning to add 22 gigawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity during 2010-2012.[36] According to a report in Hurryiyet Daily News, Turkey currently has 15 coal-fired power plants, and the Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) has approved applications for approximately 46 additional projects, each 100 MW or larger.[33] For more detailed list of the proposed coal fired power stations in Turkey see Proposed coal plants in Turkey.

Coal-fired power stations financed by international public investment institutions

Coal-fired power stations financed by international public investment institutions include:[37]

Coal plants and mines in Afsin-Elbistan

In January, 2013, the UAE's state power company TAQA signed an agreement with Turkey's state-run EÜAŞ for $12 billion worth of power plants and coal mines in the Afsin-Elbistan region -- a project with a combined power generation capacity of up to 7,000 MW. Taqa will acquire and expand the existing 1,400MW Afsin-Elbistan B power station and develop several new power plants and associated mines in sectors C, D, E, and G of the Afsin-Elbistan region. Turkey reportedly favors the mining and burning of the lignite coal in the region to reduce imports of natural gas.[38]

Hattat plants and mines

In April 2012, the group now known as Hattat Holding Energy Group, a Turkish group with interests in mining, auto, and energy, signed an agreement to build three power plants each with a capacity of 660 megawatts for $2 billion with China Power Investment Corporation (CPIZ) and a subsidiary of AVIC. The agreement includes developing coal mines for $300 million in Bartin in northern Turkey where the plants will be located. The plants will be coal-fired.[39] [40]

In May 2013 Hattat Holding and China-based Harbin Electric International signed a deal to build a 2,640 megawatts (MW), $2.4 billion coal plant in Amasra, northwestern Turkey.[41]

Proposed TurkPower Plant

On Dec. 1, 2010, TurkPower Corporation said it is has signed a consulting and sell mandate with the owner of a lignite fired thermal power plant project, to consult in the development, construction and financing of its 500MW capacity lignite thermal power plant ("TPP") project in Konya, Turkey. The TPP project includes a lignite mine to fuel the plant. Lignite reserves are calculated to be 152,000,000 million metric tons, and can supply the TPP for an estimated 42 years. The mine shows an average lignite thickness of 12 meters and the licensed mining area is 1,852 acres and the license is valid for 42 years. Site exploration studies were conducted by North American Coal Corporation. Total investment necessary to fund the project is approximately $1.26 billion.[42]

Proposed Gerze coal plant

"Let our lovely Gerze stay lovely. We don't want a thermal power plant to come to our Gerze..."

A 1200 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant proposed for the Black Sea coast has been the center of repeated protest. In March 2010, residents of village of Yaylik prevented a public meeting organized by plant's sponsor, the Anadolu Group, forcing workers to leave their village. The villagers subsequently posted a guard to prevent drilling teams from working in the village. In September 2011, three buses of gendarmerie officers used tear gas and truncheons against the protesting villagers, injuring four people and igniting a nearby forest. Comert Uygar Erdem, a lawyer representing the residents, said that the company lacked a license from the Ministry of Environment, that the Assessment of Environmental Impact had not been completed, and that the project was proceeding due solely to the governor's permission. Erdem asserted out that due to Roman and early Byzantine archeological findings the plant location should be declared a historically protected area.[43]

On November 26, 2011 it was reported that ten thousand people from various provinces and districts of Turkey gathered in the town of Gerze to protest the construction of the plant. The demonstration was organized by the Platform for a Green Gerze (YEGEP) and attended by members of the Green Party, the Ecology Collective, Greenpeace and others. The demonstration was carried out and brought to an end peacefully. The protestors chanted slogans like "Gerze does not want coal" and "The people of Gerze do not stand alone".[44]

Gerze mayor Osman Belovacikli supports the resistance against the plant, and said he has taken an initiative to bring wind energy technology to Gerze.[45]

Articles and resources


  1. Turkey's mining safety: a bleak track record, BBC, May 15, 2014.
  2. Turkey long a graveyard for miners, Hürriyet Daily News, May 14, 2014.
  3. TEPAV (2016), p. 16
  4. Şahin (2016), p. 36
  5. Jenson (2014), p. 6
  6. Şahin (2016), p. 36
  7. ÖZGÜR GÜRBÜZ, "Bizim kömürümüz bizim zehrimiz", BirGün, 6 November 2017
  8. 8.0 8.1 “Energy and Renewables”, Invest in Turkey
  9. Şahin (2016), p. 8
  10. Acar (2015), p. 10
  11. Jensen (2017), p. 44
  12. Arif Cem Gündoğan & Ethemcan Turhan, "China’s role in Turkey’s energy future," chinadialogue, September 26, 2017
  13. Burcin Atilgan and Adisa Azapagic, "Life cycle environmental impacts of electricity from fossil fuels in Turkey," Journal of Cleaner Production, November 1, 2015.
  14. Şahin (2016), p. 7
  15. "[http://climateanalytics.org/files/climateanalytics-coalreport_nov2016_1.pdf Implications of the Paris Agreement for Coal Use in the Power Sector ]," ClimateAnalytics, November 2016.
  16. Schernikau (2016), p. 209
  17. Schernikau (2016), p. 209
  18. "Electricity," Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
  19. Deloitte, Turkish Energy Industry Report, Investment Support and Promotion Agency, Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry, August 2010, page 3.
  20. Madencilerden, ocaktan çıkmama eylemi, Hürriyet, 6 Nov 2017
  21. 21.0 21.1 David O'Byrne, "Turkish power: coal or gas?", Beyond Brics (Financial Times blog), July 16, 2012.
  22. Anders Norlen, "Turkey’s floating LNG imports deliver cheaper gas and energy security," Energy Insights by McKinsey, April 2017.
  23. "Turkey's energy stock market to start trading natural gas in April," Daily Sabah, October 2017.
  24. Abache Abreu, "Dawn of a global commodity: LNG," Platts, September 2017.
  25. "Hydraulics," Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
  26. "Ibrahim Yuksel, Hasan Arman and Ibrahim Halil Demirel", "As a clean, sustainable and renewable energy— hydropower in Turkey," EDP Sciences, 2017.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Mehmet Melikoğlu, "Pumped hydroelectric energy storage: Analysing global development and assessing potential applications in Turkey based on Vision 2023 hydroelectricity wind and solar energy targets," EconPapers, 2017.
  28. "Wind," Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
  29. "Turkey Aiming For 5 Gigawatts Of Solar By 2023," CleanTechnica
  30. "Kilickaplan, Anil & Bogdanov, Dmitrii & Peker, Bülent & Caldera, Upeksha & Aghahosseini, Arman & Breyer, Christian.", "An energy transition pathway for Turkey to achieve 100% renewable energy powered electricity, desalination and non-energetic industrial gas demand sectors by 2050," Researchgate, 2017.
  31. Philip M. Mobbs, "2010 Minerals Yearbook: Turkey", United States Geological Survey, April 2012, page 56.7
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Coal," Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Serkan Ocak, "Coal's firepower to rule on coasts," Hurriyet DailyNews.com, accessed Decmeber 23, 2011
  34. Huseyin Kandemir and Debbie Lovatt, "Plant Fumes in Power Vacuum" Gemini News Service, July 13, 2001
  35. "Coal shipment stopped in Turkey," Greenpeace International, September 15, 2008
  36. Vera Eckert and Jackie Cowhig, "Analysis: Turkey to make up for falling Europe coal use," Reuters, September 1, 2010
  37. "Coal Fired Plants Financed by International Public Investment Institutions since 1994", Appendix A in Foreclosing the Future: Coal, Climate and International Public Finance: Investment in coal-fired power plants hinders the fight against global warming, Environmental Defense, April 2009.
  38. Haseeb Haider, "Taqa signs $12b Turkey deal," Khaleej Times, January 4, 2013.
  39. Ercan Ersoy, "Hattat Partners China Power, Avic for $2 Billion Power Plants," Bloomberg, April 10, 2012.
  40. "Set No. 2 of the Turkey Power Station Realizes Grid-Connected Power Generation," AVIC, September 24, 2014.
  41. "Turkish and Chinese companies ink $2.4 billion coal-based power plant deal," Turkish Weekly, May 11, 2013.
  42. "TurkPower Corporation Announces Significant New Coal Power Plant Mandate" MarketWire, Dec. 1, 2010.
  43. "Police attacked villagers after protesting thermal plant," Bianet, September 6, 2011
  44. "Resistance against Coal-Fired Plant in Gerze" Bianet, November 28, 2011.
  45. Yonca Poyraz Dogan, "Black Sea jewel town threatened by coal plant, daunted locals resist," Today's Zaman, April 1, 2012.


  • Schernikau, Lars (2016). Economics of the International Coal Trade: Why Coal Continues to Power the World (2nd ed.). New York: Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-46555-5. 

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