A coal-fired power plant produces electricity, usually for public consumption, by burning coal to boil water, producing steam which drives a steam turbine which turns an electrical generator.

Coal is a relatively cheap fuel with some of the largest deposits in politically stable regions (China, India and the US) thus generally offering a more stable supply than natural gas and oil, the largest deposits of which are located in the more politically volatile Persian Gulf. The combustion of any fuel, including coal, emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming; coal also emits other pollutants such as sulfur, nitrogen, small particulates, and heavy metals like mercury and uranium (which is naturally present in coal). These other pollutants have been linked to acid rain, smog, and a variety of health problems.

As of 2009 the largest coal-fired power plant is Kendal Power Station, South Africa. The world's most energy-efficient coal fired power plant is the Avedøre Power Plant in Denmark.