Description and Details

With a 1,320 MW coal-fired pow­er, Hunut­lu Ther­mal Pow­er Plant (HTPP) is the largest direct Chi­na invest­ment in Turkey. It’s built in Turkey’s Mid­dle Cor­ri­dor and is part of the Chi­nese Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI). The con­struc­tion start­ed in 2019, and HTPP began oper­a­tions in 2022. By esti­ma­tion, the project cost rough­ly 1.7 bil­lion dol­lars, and it’s owned by Shang­hai Elec­tric Pow­er (SEP, 50.01%), AVIC Inter­na­tion­al Project Engi­neer­ing (2.99%), and two local Turk­ish investors (47%). EMBA Elec­tric­i­ty Pro­duc­tion, a sub­sidiary of Shang­hai Elec­tric­i­ty Pow­er, is in charge of its development. 

The elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed in the plant could sup­ply 9 bil­lion kWh of pow­er to Turkey annu­al­ly. That’s around 3% of Turkey’s annu­al elec­tric­i­ty pro­duc­tion. Apart from coal-fired units, HTPP also fea­tures two sea­wa­ter desali­na­tion sys­tems, which will pro­vide 7,320 m³ of desali­nat­ed water per year under the plan­t’s nor­mal oper­at­ing con­di­tions. Addi­tion­al­ly, the plant is equipped with Flue gas desul­fu­r­iza­tion and an SCR den­i­tra­tion sys­tem, which main­tains a prop­er car­bon emis­sion level.

With the ben­e­fits above, the project has also raised some doubts. It was post­poned a decade due to protests and legal con­straints. One claim is that HTPP goes against the envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion prin­ci­ples, espe­cial­ly because Chi­na, the biggest devel­op­ing coun­try, is sup­posed to take the lead in envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly projects. Accord­ing to some research done by NGOs, air pol­lu­tant emis­sions are high, and the oper­at­ing plant could be respon­si­ble for hun­dreds of deaths per year in Turkey. Fur­ther, the project can induce mer­cury depo­si­tion in nat­ur­al sur­round­ings, which may threat­en aquat­ic and human health. 

One thing to high­light is that the project’s pay­back peri­od is so long that it could lose mon­ey in the 30-year oper­a­tional peri­od. Even under the most ide­al assump­tion, where the ener­gy price is high and the coal cost is low, it will still take 20 years to pay off the cap­i­tal invest­ment. With the upris­ing of renew­able ener­gy, the tra­di­tion­al coal-fired plant faces fur­ther chal­lenges as the world econ­o­my could shift away from fos­sil fuels. Still, from HTPP offi­cials, the pow­er plant is doing all it can to reduce pol­lu­tants and noise lev­els, pro­tect the envi­ron­ment, and serve the country.

CEE sub­jects: Envi­ron­men­tal Engi­neer­ing, Geot­ech­ni­cal Engi­neer­ing, Hydraulics and Hydro­log­i­cal Engi­neer­ing, Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy and Sus­tain­able Infra­struc­ture, Energy

Discussion Questions

  • Should the pow­er plant have been built? What are rea­sons for, or against, build­ing the plant? 
  • Do you think the pol­i­tics of renew­able ener­gy and envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion should be con­sid­ered when con­struct­ing new infrastructure?
  • What do you think of coal-fired pow­er plants, espe­cial­ly when renew­able ener­gy is an option? Is it worth build­ing more of it?