Electricity from new renewables cheaper than imported coal – Turkey, 28 September 2021

According to an analysis made by London-based think tank Ember, the rising price of coal means that electricity generated from imported hard coal-fired plants is now more expensive in Turkey than new local wind and solar-powered generation.

The costs of wind and solar power plants have seen dramatic drops over the last ten years, making them more competitive in Turkey and globally.

According to the analysis, the levelized cost of wind-powered electricity decreased by 64 % in the last decade and 32 % in the last five years, while the levelized cost of electricity for a utility-scale solar power plant is currently 50 % cheaper than five years ago. The levelized cost of electricity for wind and solar is 40.8 and 51.9 dollars/MWh, respectively.

Imported coal power generation costs are between 62-77 dollars/MWh for a typical power plant in the country after coal prices hit the highest level in a decade at 179 dollars/ton in front month futures.

The analysis shows that this places new wind and solar generation costs significantly lower than the existing imported hard coal short-run marginal costs, even without taking into account carbon pricing. That means that it is now cheaper to generate electricity from new wind and solar power than to run existing coal plants that rely on coal imports.

The share of power plants running on imported coal last year amounted to 21 % of Turkey’s electricity generation, while the share of solar and wind totaled 13 %.

The installed capacity of imported coal plants is around 9,000 MW, accounting for 45 % of the total coal capacity. Turkey’s total installed electricity capacity amounted to 98,493 MW, out of which renewables, including hydropower plants, constituted 52,353 MW at the end of August 2021.

According to the analysis, the market forecast expects solar power to become even cheaper within the coming years. In Turkey’s latest solar auctions totaling 1,000 MW in April and May, the prices ranged between 21.5 and 37.9 dollars/MWh for capacities varying between 10 to 20 MW. These projects are expected to come online by 2024.

The weighted average cost of these projects was 25 dollars/MWh, which is just 60 % of the hard coal generation marginal costs calculated with 2024 coal futures prices. Even the most efficient imported coal power plant’s marginal cost for 2024 at 35.7 dollars/MWh remains well above the weighted average of the latest solar auction prices.

If imported coal plants continue running at high capacities, coal import costs could set a new record reaching almost 5 billion dollars this year under the current coal price levels, 3 billion of which is estimated to be used for electricity generation.

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