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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Turkey Emerges as the Largest Coal-Fired Electricity Producer in Europe

  • Turkey has consumed more coal-fired electricity in 2024 than any country in Europe.
  • Falling coal prices and reliance on Russian imports drive Turkey's coal dependency.
  • This shift away from renewables raises concerns about Turkey's environmental impact and energy security.
Electricity

Turkey has emerged as the largest coal-fired electricity producer in Europe as major EU economies have continued to shut down coal power plants and boost renewable energy generation.    

In the first four months of this year, Turkey was the top coal power producer in Europe, overtaking Germany, according to data from energy think tank Ember cited by Reuters columnist Gavin Maguire.

This development highlights the diverging paths the EU and Turkey have taken in securing electricity supply. While the EU bloc—including top coal power producer Germany—is looking to reduce reliance on coal as much as possible, Turkey is importing and using more coal to meet its rising electricity demand as coal has become more economically viable to burn in power plants than imported natural gas. 

In 2023, Turkey overtook Poland to become Europe’s second-largest coal-fired power generator, behind Germany, Ember said in its Türkiye Electricity Review 2024 in March. At the same time, Turkey’s dependence on imported coal for electricity generation continued to increase, Ember’s energy analyst Bahadir Gumus says.  

Coal’s share in Turkey’s total power generation hit a record high of 36% last year, compared to a 12% share in the European Union. Turkey is dependent on coal imports from Russia—with which Ankara has kept friendly diplomatic and trade relations after the Russian invasion of Ukraine—and Russian coal imports held a 73% share in Turkey’s electricity generation, according to Ember’s data. 

Unlike the EU, Turkey doesn’t have a ban on imports of Russian energy products. 

As coal prices fell more than natural gas prices after the 2022 spike, gas-fired power generation in Turkey fell for the second year in a row in 2023, marking its lowest generation over four years. 

“Türkiye’s growing reliance on fossil fuels in electricity generation pushes Türkiye further from the path of clean energy transition,” Ember’s Gumus said. 

This year, Turkey generated 36 terawatt hours (TWh) of coal-fired electricity between January and April, surpassing Germany’s coal power output of 34.6 TWh and Poland’s 31.3 TWh, per Ember’s data.  

Germany, until recently Europe’s top coal-fired power producer, shut down additional coal plants this spring. 

At the beginning of the 2023/2024 winter, Germany’s government said it was bringing back online several coal-fired units for the winter in an attempt to save natural gas and avoid power supply shortfalls. 

Without Russian gas supply, the recent energy and gas crisis in Germany—and in Europe—has been keeping utilities and governments on edge and ready to have mothballed coal-fired power plants on stand-by in the coldest winter days to ensure the security of electricity supply. 

After the end of the winter, German utility RWE shut down permanently five coal power plant units, removing 2,100 megawatts (MW) of lignite capacity permanently from the grid. RWE has already decommissioned 12 lignite-fired power plant units with a total output of 4,200 MW since the end of 2020 and is confident it would complete its coal phase-out by 2030. 

In total, Germany shut down permanently 15 coal-fired power plants last month. 

“Several coal-fired power plants that were still on the grid as a precautionary measure over the last two years are therefore now superfluous and can be taken off the grid for good,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told German agency dpa in early April, adding these were “neither necessary nor economical.” 

In 2023, lignite-powered electricity production in Germany slumped to the lowest level since 1963, while hard coal-powered plants produced the lowest electricity volumes since 1955, according to data compiled by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. 

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In Germany’s neighbor to the east, Poland, the biggest state utilities are preparing for a surge in clean energy investments in 2025, hoping that the government would move ahead with a plan to spin off coal assets that have been restricting the companies’ access to financial markets. 

Poland’s power grid operator said in March that it would spend $16 billion on upgrading and expanding its power grid to accommodate additional renewable and nuclear capacity.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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