Moving Towards Renewable and Sustainable Energy in Sri Lanka

April 18, 2017

During the Presidential election 2015, president Maithripala Sirisena announced his manifesto under the theme of compassionate Maithri governance, a stable country”. In the chapter 10 of the aforesaid, he promised to meet the basic energy needs through renewable energy. The manifesto also included among others protecting against rising of imported fuel prices, inclusion of environmental factors in decision making, building biomass power plants and benefiting rural communities. It also mentions removing subsidies for fossil fuel and supporting renewable energy with the President’s policy statements emphasizing the obtaining of long term concessionary loans for clean energy from global funds.

Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy

Until early 90s, Ceylon electricity board depended on Hydropower since it was introduced in 1950s to the country. Until late 2010, hydropower held the majority share on the national power grid. Later on, due to increasing demand and unavailability of economically feasible sites for the development of major hydro sources, respective governments had to shift into a mix electricity generation system such as fossil based alternative as a result.

Electrification growth has changed from 7% that was in early 1976 to an almost 100% electrification rate. Current status of the installed capacity of power in Sri Lanka is 4065MW while having a peak demand of 2483MW. With the changing life patterns of people, it is also notable that at present per capita consumption of electricity has risen from 348kWh (2004) to the existing value 603kWh.

At the end of the year 2016, energy share of the market stands at CEB Coal 36%, CEB Thermal 17%, IPP Thermal (Independent power producers)15% CEB Hydro 24% and other non-conventional renewable energy 8%. According to CEB sources other renewable energy capacity stands at 543.5MW having 209 ongoing projects including among others 178 mini hydro power projects with the capacity of 349.64MW, solar power 41.36MW and wind power 123.85MW.

Change of Plans

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) issued its long-term generation expansion plan 2015-2034 in July 2015. According to which it was expected to increase coal based electricity generation by 5 times to meet the energy requirement of the country causing solid rise of 350% carbon emission which includes increasing particulates by 750% and coal ash 3700tons/day by 2034. Notably, renewable energy cost reduction is not mentioned in this document.

However, this was rejected later introducing CEB short term 2017-2020 plan under the guidance of Public Utility Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). It further requested a new plan for 2018-2037 long term generation expansion plan giving priority to government policy framework, least cost principles, demand-side management (DSM), more renewable energy, improve consideration of environmental, health and other externalities and seek wider consultation.

Moving Forward with Increased Renewable Energy Targets

Readiness to integrate variable renewable energy into the national power grid is an upcoming issue that CEB has to face with the increase of renewable energy sources. It is necessary to get new tools to absorb a large share of variable renewable energy to the system.

It is found as a globally confirmed fact that considering the lifespan of a power plant that the leverage cost of fossil fuel and coal is comparatively higher than the leverage cost for renewable energy power plants. Further, there is a reduction in costs that is noted since 2010. Cost of storing renewable energy has been reduced by 70% since 2010, and is expected to reduce by 50% by 2024 compared to the current level.  A  decline in solar electricity prices is noted worldwide as a result of drop in technology cost, low cost financing, favorable solar conditions and competitive procurements.

Currently the revision of National Energy Policies and strategies, which was prepared in 2008, is ongoing parallel to government’s vision for national development, which has set up targets to achieve highest potential of share in renewable energy sector by 2020.

Call for Comments on National Energy Policy  

The Power and Renewable Energy Ministry of Sri Lanka has introduced the draft of the national energy policy for Sri Lanka for public comments. This is introduced as a step towards Sri Lanka’s move to sustainable energy as part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Under the updated new version of energy policy elements, government has set targets to assure energy security, to provide energy supply at the least economic cost, to provide access to energy services. The Policy also focuses on enhancing self-reliance, conserving energy and improving energy efficiency, enhancing the share of renewable energy, as well as strengthening good governance in the energy sector.  The call for comments of the Ministry will remain open for 30 days, and the public has around two more weeks to voice their comments.

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About the Author
Kavindu Ediriweera

Kavindu Ediriweera is a graduate in law and a long-standing member of SLYCAN Trust, a non-profit think tank, and is currently serving as the Director of Youth Programs and Deputy Director of Programs at SLYCAN Trust.He has over a decade of experience focusing mainly on climate change, adaptation and resilience, risk management, loss and damage, human mobility, sustainable development, just transition, entrepreneurship, environmental conservation and restoration, and social justice. He has also been a delegate for Sri Lanka on a number of climate change negotiations, with a special focus on Action for Climate Empowerment, the impact of implementation of response measures, and Just Transition agenda items under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement.Furthermore, he has also represented SLYCAN Trust Youth at the Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC on a number of occasions since 2012 and was nominated to represent Sri Lanka at the UN Youth Climate Summit in 2019 and Youth4Climate (PreCOP26 in 2021).