January 14, 2021

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s floundering coal investment in Turkey

Through the example of Hunutlu coal-fired thermal power plant under construction in the mediterranean city of Adana, report reveals why coal investments no longer bring profits.


According to the main findings of the report:

    • Based on an investment cost of $1.7 billion, Hunutlu coal-fired thermal power plant will only break even 26 years after becoming operational. When the construction period is added to the calculation, break even period extends to 30 years.
    • Based on an investment cost of $2.1 billion, the plant is unable to pay back the investment over its 30-year long economic life.


The report ‘Feasibility of Coal in the Age of Renewable Energy: Hunutlu Thermal Power Plant Case‘, jointly prepared by WWF Turkey and SEFiA (Sustainable Economy and Financial Research Association), analyses 16 different scenarios with variables related to electricity price and calorific value under different capital and fixed operational costs. It turned out that in none of these scenarios did the plant make a profit.

According to information from different sources, the investment cost of the plant is believed to be between US$ 1.7 billion and US$ 2.1 billion. 78.21% of the shares of Hunutlu Thermal Power Plant is owned by the Chinese Shanghai Electric Power Co., the rest by Avic International Project Engineering Company and two undisclosed Turkish investors.

Prepared with the assumption that current market trends will continue and that there will be no excessive fluctuation in prices, the report points out that investing in the Hunutlu thermal power plant is not economically meaningful for companies and financiers. The studies further reveal that this situation, as has happened in the past, will worsen if market conditions develop against coal.

“Our net present value calculations show that under the capital cost scenario which corresponds to the ultra-supercritical coal burning technology, the Hunutlu thermal power plant is unable to pay back its capital cost over a period of 30 years, even under the assumption of high electricity prices. It is therefore worth questioning the political economy and financial sustainability of this investment, which would have an installed capacity of 1320 MW if completed,” said Bengisu Özenç, Founding Director of SEFiA and the author of the report.

The controversial project, being constructed in the Sugözü coast of Adana, presents numerous setbacks. Among other factors, Hunutlu’s Final Environmental Impact Assessment report has shown an exceed limit value for air pollution, and the establishment of a thermal plant in the area is also illegal according to the applicable legislation in Turkey due to sea turtles protection. Adana is also an important site for Turkey’s agriculture. If the power plant is implemented, it will increase the cumulative pollution burden arising from other thermal plants and industrial activities, and have a negative effect on agricultural production in the region.

“This is exactly why we started the Clean Air 4 Adana Campaign against Hunutlu coal power plant; this project is threatening the rich ecosystem, agriculture and public health of Adana and Iskenderun Bay. Researches show that 1 out of 5 people in Adana died due to air pollution-related reasons in 2019. It is totally unacceptable to pursue such dirty projects which will further increase the cumulative impact of air pollution, even more so in the age of COVID – 19. We ask ICBC and other banks to stop financing the Hunutlu coal power plant project,” said Dr. Sadun Bölükbaşı, East Mediterranean Platform of Environment Associations.

China’s first direct investment in Turkey, the Hunutlu Power Plant, which is currently under construction, is financed by the China Development Bank, Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), within the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative. According to the report, in April 2020 it was confirmed that a 15-year US$1.381 billion loan has been arranged for the project by these banks.

While this amount of money is being given to finance outdated energy sources like coal, the study also shows that solar power generation costs have fallen by 90% over the last 11 years, and wind power by 70%, while the cost of electricity generation from coal-fired thermal power plants has increased by 1%. 

“In the age of climate breakdown, financing fossil fuel projects is unacceptable, and financiers like ICBC should lead the way and help accelerate the energy transition to a low-carbon economy. Renewable energy investments can be a major force in Turkey’s economic recovery, generating decent returns on investment while boosting employment opportunities. The construction of Hunutlu coal power plant is an offense which will bring extensive damages to the ecosystems and to the livelihoods of thousands of people on the surroundings of the project. Communities impacted by coal projects deserve affordable, just, clean and safe energy instead,” said Efe Baysal at 350.org.



Notes to editors:

The full report can be found here.



Gül Türün, WWF-Turkey Senior Communications Specialist, [email protected]

Bengisu Özenç, Founding Director of SEFiA, [email protected]

Efe Baysal,  350.org, [email protected] 


About Hunutlu Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant:

Hunutlu Thermal Power Plant was granted with an electricity generation license in 2015 as a project of EMBA Electricity Generation Joint Stock Company, a joint venture between the Chinese Shanghai Electric Co., and CPI Power Engineering. Following the acquisition of the license, the project was granted VAT exemption over a fixed investment amount of TL 3.5 billion and customs tariff exemption on machinery equipment imports of US$ 768 million.