Turkey and coal

From Global Energy Monitor

Turkey is a mid-sized coal producer and consumer. In 2019, Turkey produced 82 million tonnes of coal.

Coal Resources

Resource Details

Category Reserve Classification Quantity Units Data Year
BGR Estimate Reserves 11,525[1] million tonnes 2019
BGR Estimate Resources 6,070[1] million tonnes 2019
Geological Survey Reserves 14,126[2] million tonnes 2013
Geological Survey Resources 20,840[3] million tonnes 2013
Commercial Reporting Reserves million tonnes
Commercial Reporting Resources million tonnes

Coal fields

Turkey has only 500 million tonnes proven reserves of anthracite. Mining of this 'hard coal' is only done in the Zonguldak basin in the western Black Sea region and is underground and labor-intensive due to the very complex geology. In contrast most lignite mining is opencast and 15 billion tonnes of lignite are spread around Turkey,[4] and the Energy Ministry is prospecting for more.[5]

Coal Production

Turkey is the seventh-largest coal producer in the world[6], almost all lignite. The insignificant hard coal mining is heavily subsidized:[4] in the public sector five hard coal deep mines are operated by Turkiye Taskomuru Kurumu Genel Mudurlu (TTK). Lignite is mined by state ownedTurkiye Komur lsletmesi Kurumu (TKI) in Afsin-Elbistan in southeast Anatolia and by the public sector electricity generator EÜAŞ, but most lignite is mined by private companies.[7] And most coal mining employment is in the private sector: in 2017, according to the General Directorate of Mining, in over 400 workplaces.[8]

In 2017 over 80 million tons were mined, 90 million tons are predicted for 2018 and the target for 2019 is 100 million tons; with an ultimate goal of 150-200 million tons,[9] almost all lignite. Amongst the proposed lignite mines in Turkey those in Thrace, Eskişehir and Afyon would be underground; whereas those in Konya and Karamanmaraş would be opencast.[10] Tenders for several coal mines are being held during 2018.[11]

Mining Accidents

From 2000 to 2014 almost 100 miners died in accidents every year on average, and most mining accidents occur in coal mines.[12] Per GWh of electricity generated Turkey's mines are the most dangerous in the world[13] and unlike other countries fatality rates are not decreasing[14] In 2017 inspections were stepped up[15] but there were still deaths in illegal mines.[16] Worker death statistics are no longer published by the government and ILO safety standards will not be implemented until 2020.[17]

Coal Conumption

Coal power meets a third of Turkey's increasing electricity demand, and together with burning coal for heat makes up a quarter of Turkey's primary energy consumption.[7]

On average electricity is transmitted from the east of the country to the west. Sometimes power plants in Anatolia are curtailed and compensated due to transmission limitations on the European side of Istanbul.[18]. Lack of grid connectivity in suitable areas is hampering expansion of wind power.[19]

Only a quarter of Turkey's primary energy needs are met from domestic resources and the country is heavily dependent on imports of oil and gas.[20] However hydropower is flexible and can supply over half of the 50GW peak electricity demand.[21] Turkey generates about 300TWh per year.[22] Lignite and hard-coal fired power stations between them account for 22% of the installed capacity of the electricity generation system.[23] Approximately 30% of the coal used for power generation is imported,[24] from countries such as Russia.[25] The electricity market is an oligopoly with TETAŞ and EÜAŞ producing about 40% of Turkey's electricity,[26] and the government sets the end-user electricity price.[27] The Turkish government is attempting to privatise some of the few remaining state owned coal-fired power stations.

Coal-fired power plants

In 2017 over $1.5 billion was invested in plant to burn imported coal, adding 1,320 megawatts of installed capacity.[28] Power from coal doubled over the ten years to 2018[29] and now the 40 coal-fired plants[23] generate a third of Turkey's electricity[7], 92TWh in 2016.[30] Coal-fired power stations in Turkey which burn hard coal are generally near the coast as almost all hard coal is imported,[31] whereas those burning lignite are near coal fields.

Coal-fired power stations financed by international public investment institutions

Coal-fired power stations which have been financed by international public investment institutions include the Afsin-Elbistan power complex.[32]

Proposed coal plants

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

Turkey is planning and constructing new coal plants to be fired by local lignite mines in Thrace,[33] Eskişehir, Afyonkarahisar, Kahramanmaraş, Bartin and other provinces. However Gerze power station was cancelled after strong local opposition and opposition to coal in Turkey remains determined.

Anadolu Enerji and Hattat Holding Energy Group are two of the companies involved, and more companies are due to be selected during 2018.



5.4m tonnes of coking coal and 0.7m tonnes of anthracite were imported in 2015 to use in steel production.[34] As well as using coal for heat to make steel some companies; such as Kardemir, İsken and Çolakoğlu; have coal-fired power stations at their steelworks.


4m tonnes of petcoke and 3m tonnes of coal were imported in 2015 to use in cement production[35] and the cement sector emitted 32 million tons of CO2.[36]


There are also many small coal-fired power stations at sugar factories.[37]

Laws and policies

According to article 56 of the constitution: "Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. It is the duty of the State and citizens to improve the natural environment, to protect the environmental health and to prevent environmental pollution."[38]

The government's policies on renewables and domestic coal aim to reduce its considerable expenditure on energy imports.[39] Coal supplies over one quarter of Turkey's primary energy including about one third of its electricity.[7] While the government continues to flag its desire to have a massive expansion in coal,[9] some MPs and analysts are unpersuaded. Opposition MPs debating in 2016 complained that Turkish coal plants would receive large public subsidies and exemptions from environmental regulations.[40]

There are also risks that the government will lock itself into expensive power purchase agreements from privately owned plants: for example power from Çayırhan-B will cost 60USD per MWh for 15 years.[41] In 2018 TETAŞ (the state-owned wholesale company which takes up previously stranded costs) will pay over 200 lira per MWh.[42]

The national energy and mining policy (Milli Enerji ve Maden Politikası), announced in April 2017 by Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak, promotes clean coal[43] with the coal industry. In late 2017 the minister said that "By expanding the purchase guarantee, feed-in-tariff, we will start using the long-term incentive and support mechanism for local coal".[44]

The ministry, under the slogan and hashtag #BizimKömürümüzBizimEnerjimiz (our coal our energy)[45], 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; [46] including 25GW lignite-fired.[33]

In July 2017 opposition MPs requested a parliamentary enquiry into the health and environmental effects of the large number of coal-fired power stations planned and under construction.[47][48]

International opinion

Turkey's policy negatively affects its reputation in the world[49] and may affect future negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and at the G20.[50]


Limiting global warming would benefit the economy[51] and the balance of trade, by limiting water stress and its effect on agriculture and food production.[52]


Renewable energy employs more people than coal. In 2017, according to the General Directorate of Mining, about 38,000 people were employed in coal mining, mostly by private companies.[8] In total about one thousand people are employed per million tons annual production of domestic coal (80 millon tons were produced in 2017), according to the ministry;[24] whereas 94,000 people worked in renewable energy in 2017.[53]

During installation of a solar power plant, a workforce of 33 people per megawatt is required, and 10 workers per megawatt are needed during the production phase; so solar power could create 180,000 jobs by 2023.[54]

Although central government attempted to assist Zonguldak around the turn of the century, unlike in neighboring Greece there is no current organized high level political or economic support to help regions transition away from dependence on coal.[55]


Coal is subsidized via: transfer payments from the Treasury, investment incentives for coal extraction, and electricity generation from coal-fired power plants, R&D support, subsidies for mineral exploration, improvement financing for coal mines and coal-fired power plants, investment guarantees, price and electricity purchase guarantees, coal aid to the poor, and other direct and indirect supports[56][57], totaling 260-300 million dollars a year.[58][37] These amount to about 0.01 USD per kWh (0.02 USD if coal support to poor families is included).[59] TETAŞ is the Turkish government owned wholesale company which takes up the stranded costs of domestic coal plants. In 2018 the base budget for the capacity mechanism alone (coal and gas) was 1.4 billion lira, however the 2018 formula stipulates increases depending on inflation and the USD exchange rate[60] so the final capacity mechanism total may be around 2 billion lira.[58]

Capacity Mechanism: comparison with other European countries

Because wind or solar power is not always available when needed, some countries or regions with a high proportion of it use a capacity mechanism (also known as a capacity market) which should remunerate other electricity generators and other capacity providers, such as demand response operators, for being available in case of need.[61]

For example in Britain, with its many wind turbines, wind and solar might be providing half the required power at midday in spring but very little during a dull, still winter week. The British capacity mechanism auctions meet the need for flexibility by paying some gas plants, but also nuclear, interconnectors, demand side response and distributed generation.[62] Turkey is not yet close to the solar power percentage of Spain, which includes hydropower in its capacity payments.[63]

In contrast the Turkish capacity mechanism is not an auction but payments are determined by an EMRA formula. It is operated by TEIAS and does not fund any of Turkey's many flexible hydro plants or any interconnectors or demand response; although its currently stated aim is to establish sufficient installed capacity, including reserve capacity, for the supply of electricity security in the electricity market.[64] Instead Turkey has been compared to Poland and its capacity mechanism is accused of being a subsidy of fossil fuels.[65] In 2018 most large coal (including newer imported coal and also newer gas plants despite the 2016 law prioritizing local resources[66]), but no other plants are eligible for payments via the capacity mechanism,[67] and the need for it has been questioned.[68]


In addition to current healthcare costs extra are expected in future due to climate change.[69] And if Turkey's pollution regulations were improved to the EU Industrial Emissions Directive then removal of SO2 alone could cost between 75 and 100 million euros for each coal plant.[70]


In 2017 $1.56 billion was spent on 320MW capacity imported coal power plants that also commenced generating power that year.[71]

As of 2017 Turkey intends to spend $14 billion for coal mining development and coal-fired power plants by 2023 (the centennial of the Turkish Republic).[72]

A local energy analyst writes in 2018 that international financial institutions will not invest:[73] however BBVA, a Spanish bank, may continue to do so,[74] and as of 2018 Chinese investment and loans for new coal plants continue.[75]

According to a 2017 analysis from İş Bankası the 30 year USD based government purchase guarantee encourages domestic banks to loan to projects which would burn local coal.[19] Turkish banks have financed 9GW of coal power plant capacity:[37] for example Garanti Bank has made many loans to coal projects over the years and, as of 2018, continues to offer finance.

Stranded Assets

Newer coal-fired power stations in Turkey risk becoming stranded assets[76][77] because according to the United Nations Environment Programme "Closing the emissions gap requires that these plants run with lower capacity rates, and are phased out before the end of their lifetime, and/or retrofitted with CCS facilities."[78]


The government actively supports coal power expansion and subsidizes new coal-fired power plants,[57] emphasizing increased mining of the country's widespread lignite coalfields as a way of minimizing imports of hard coal and natural gas.[24][27]

Energy Minister Albayrak said in August 2017 that filtering systems would be completed based on the latest environmental criterion in all of Turkey's existing old plants by 2019 and that all power plants to be built from August 2017 on will be in line with EU standards.[79] However currently Law 27605 regulates pollution (except CO2) from power plants, but not down to the limits of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive[70], and those EU limits will be reduced in 2021.[80] Formerly all applications for a pre-licence for over 300MW (and some smaller)[29] had to first obtain an EIA decision[81] however now state owned and privatized generation plants do not have to comply with environmental legislation until end 2019.[82] Academics have suggested an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for operational plants.[83]

EMRA has 20 business days to evaluate an application for a preliminary license, often referred to as a pre-license.[81] Pre-licenses can be extended up to 3 years.[84]

Opponents claim that the “urgent expropriation law” has been used excessively by the current government to secure land to fast-track energy and development projects.[85]

Carbon Market

The IEA has suggested that Turkey should have a carbon market,[86] but despite some voluntary carbon trading [87] there is a lack of political will for the necessary legislation.[88] A carbon tax would also be a viable option but subsidies provided for high carbon fossil fuel sources in the country, such as lignite, would first have to be reduced. [89]

Environmental Impacts

Data from continuous monitoring of flue stack emissions is not published on the internet.[29]

Air pollution

Despite the dangers of PM2.5 there is no legal limit on its emission.[29] About 2800 people die prematurely every year because of coal, most from lung and heart diseases.[90] In 2018 at least 500kg of coal is being given to each poor family.[91] The Chamber of Environmental Engineers is calling for natural gas, instead of poor quality coal, to be provided as support to poor locals.[92]


Turkey's lignite coal produces a high proportion of ash, and opponents claim that toxic elements in the ash have polluted air and soil and could leak into groundwater.[85]


Over 70% of the water consumed for electricity generation in 2016 was used by coal-fired power plants, mostly due to the use of wet cooling towers.[93] Some plants, such as Soma Kolin and Çan-2, are being constructed in high water stressed areas. Konya Karapınar power station has been proposed for an extremely water stressed area.[94] If carbon capture and storage (CCS) was used in future this would require much more freshwater.[95]

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

See also Turkey and climate change.

Because the lignite burnt in Turkey's coal-fired power stations produces more CO2 per kWh electricity generated than most other types of coal, and almost all hard coal is imported and thus incurs emissions from shipping; for every kWh generated in Turkey by coal over 1kg of CO2 is emitted.[96] Coal's share of Turkey's total greenhouse gas emissions of about 500 million tons[97] is about a third.[98] Averaging 6 tons per person per year in total[99] (and predicted to overtake the EU average soon[100]) thus about 2 tons per person per year is from coal, amounting to 154 million tons in 2016.[101] Turkey's climate is already changing[102] and the impact will be felt across the country.[103] Overall, Turkey emits 1% of the world's greenhouse gas, 1/3 from coal.[104] Plants over 20MW are required to report their CO2 emissions to the government but not to the public.[105]

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 power station: 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."[106] The plant has long been considered a blight on the scenic Aegean coast[107] and local people continue to protest that it has damaged their health and olive groves.[108]
  • Afşin-Elbistan power complex: A plant in Kahramanmaraş province operated without a purification system for 20 years, damaging local agriculture and leading to complaints from local citizens. [106]
  • 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.[109]


In June 2018 the government was reported to be considering increasing the amount of sulfur allowed in imported thermal coal from 1%-2% to 3%.[110]

Injury and illness

4300 hospital admissions annually are estimated to be due to air pollution from coal.[111]

Health Impact Assessment

Although there is no legal requirement for a health impact assessment during power plant licensing, campaigners may try to use a 2017 case regarding nuclear power as a precedent for coal plants.[29]

Public Opinion

Climate change is not on the political agenda but most Turks prefer renewable energy to coal.[112] Although the public mainly prioritizes the cost of energy concern about its environmental impact is rising.[113]

Coal Free Turkey

For more details, see Alternatives to coal in Turkey.

Currently about one third of Turkey's electricity is generated from coal, one third from natural gas, a quarter from hydro, and small amounts from solar, wind, geothermal and biogas;[23] however hydropower can vary considerably from year to year depending on the weather. Mainly by taking advantage of Turkey's enormous solar energy potential and using more wind power, Turkey's energy needs could be met without using coal.[114] This would increase employment and be cheaper in the long-term.[115][100]

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External resources