Massive dash for coal in Turkey

Protest against a planned coal power station in Gerze, Turkey. Photo: BY-NC-SA

Ignoring its significant solar power potential, Turkey is planning a huge increase in coal burning with up to 86 new coal-fired plants in the pipeline.

At least fifty new coal-fired power plants with a total installed capacity of 37,000 MW are currently planned to be built in Turkey. This would rank Turkey first among OECD countries investing in new coal capacity and fourth globally, behind only China, India and Russia.

Some projections even suggest up to 86 new coal plant projects, including those that are in the process of seeking permits and those that have failed the application process. By 2030, electricity generated from coal in Turkey is expected to almost triple, resulting in significantly increased emissions of air pollutants, including the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

These are some of the findings of a new report “Black clouds looming – How Turkey’s coal spree is threatening local economies on the Black Sea”, by CEE Bankwatch Network and Greenpeace Mediterranean.

While Turkey joined the Kyoto protocol in 2009 as an Annex I country, it refused to adopt any emission reduction targets in the protocol’s second commitment period (2013–2020). The country’s main climate mitigation actions are summarised in the Climate Change Action Plan and in several sectoral strategic plans, and include increasing the share of renewables in the electricity sector, decreasing energy intensity by 20 per cent over the period 2008–2023, and decreasing the rate of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by seven per cent from a “business-as-usual” scenario.

Given that Turkish GHG emissions more than doubled between 1990 and 2010 and are projected to triple by 2020, a seven-per-cent reduction from the “business-as-usual” scenario is not ambitious enough.

Current GHG emissions total 422 million tonnes CO2 equivalents (mtCO2eq), an increase of 126 per cent when compared to 1990 levels. If government projections for increased coal use materialise, by 2023 the total annual emissions from new coal plants will be around 300 mtCO2eq.

Solar and geothermal targets are negligible in the Turkish energy plans. The 2023 target for installed capacity of solar power is only 3,000 MW (i.e. ten per cent of what Germany already possesses). This is despite Turkey’s huge solar thermal capacity potential, which is second best in Europe after Spain.

Some of the main findings of the report are that:

  • Energy alternatives like solar installations, integrated energy efficiency measures and small-scale renewable energy projects that serve local needs, promote energy independence and the diversification of Turkey’s energy sources, provide affordable energy, and create jobs more efficiently than developing coal power are neither analysed nor discussed at the policy or project levels;
  • Environmental impact assessments for the planned coal power plants are incomplete, as are assessments of the cumulative impacts of the facilities planned to serve the coal plants;
  • A strategic environmental assessment is missing for the power plants that expect approval for construction at both the national level and the regional level (13 coal plants are planned in the western Black Sea region within a distance of 70 kilometres from the coast);
  • Project promoters and responsible national authorities exhibit a disregard of public concerns and offer limited access to information about the environmental, social and economic impacts of the proposed coal projects on local and national economies;
  • The involvement of international financial institutions lacks a strategy to address the challenges facing the Turkish energy mix, with significant offshoot impacts on their investments elsewhere in energy efficiency, renewables and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Christer Ågren

The report: Black clouds looming – How Turkey’s coal spree is threatening local economies on the Black Sea (October 2013). By CEE Bankwatch Network and Greenpeace Mediterranean. 


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