In this captivating discussion led by Prabath Wickramasinghe and Akhila Randeniya from the Advocata Institute, they delve into the renewable energy industry in Sri Lanka. The video highlights the history and development of renewable energy in the country, starting with small hydro projects in the 1940s and the introduction of solar power in 2010. They also discuss the current state of renewable energy in Sri Lanka, including the approximately 450 megawatts of renewable mini hydro capacity, close to 600-700 megawatts of solar power capacity, and around 200-275 megawatts of wind power capacity. The discussion also touches on the challenges faced by the industry, such as inconsistent government policy and lack of financial support for investors.
Background of the Renewable Energy Industry in Sri Lanka
Introduction to the renewable energy industry
The renewable energy industry in Sri Lanka dates back to the 1940s when small hydro projects were initiated during the British regime to power tea plantations. However, it was not until 1996 that the modern renewable energy industry began with the establishment of the first privately owned mini hydropower project in Koya by Mr. Prema Series. This one-megawatt hydropower plant supplied electricity to the national grid, marking the beginning of a new era in renewable energy development in the country.
Early development of the industry
After the success of the first mini hydropower project, numerous other hydropower plants were established in the central mountains and southern slopes of Sri Lanka. Fast forward to 2023, and the country now boasts approximately 450 megawatts of renewable mini hydro capacity spread across 225 power plants. This significant growth demonstrates the steady development and expansion of the industry over the years.
Introduction of modern renewable energy in 1996
In addition to mini hydropower, solar power was introduced in Sri Lanka in 2010 through small rooftop projects. The government implemented net metering, net accounting, and net plus schemes to encourage the development of rooftop solar. Since then, there has been rapid growth, with close to 600-700 megawatts of solar capacity and around 35,000 installations across the country. The rise of solar power has provided a clean and sustainable alternative for electricity generation.
Mini-Hydro Power in Sri Lanka
Overview of mini-hydro power projects
Mini-hydro power projects in Sri Lanka utilize the energy generated by flowing or falling water to produce electricity. These projects typically involve building small dams or diverting water from streams or rivers to turn turbines connected to generators. The mini-hydro power plants in Sri Lanka are privately owned and range in capacity from a few kilowatts to several megawatts.
Capacity of mini-hydro power in Sri Lanka
As of 2023, the total capacity of mini-hydro power in Sri Lanka is approximately 450 megawatts. This capacity is spread across 225 power plants located in the central mountains and southern slopes of the country. The mini-hydro power sector has played a significant role in diversifying Sri Lanka’s energy sources and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.
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Solar Power in Sri Lanka
Introduction of solar power in Sri Lanka
Solar power was introduced in Sri Lanka in 2010 through small rooftop projects. The government implemented various schemes to incentivize the development of solar installations, including net metering and net accounting. These schemes allowed individuals and businesses to generate their own solar energy and sell any excess electricity back to the grid.
Growth and capacity of solar power
Since its introduction, solar power has experienced rapid growth in Sri Lanka. The country now has close to 600-700 megawatts of solar capacity, with installations ranging from small-scale houses to large factories, hotels, and banks. The widespread adoption of solar power has significantly contributed to the overall renewable energy mix in Sri Lanka.
Number of solar installations
As of 2023, there are approximately 35,000 solar installations across Sri Lanka. These installations range from small-scale residential rooftop systems to larger commercial and industrial projects. The increasing number of solar installations reflects the growing popularity and acceptance of solar power as a viable renewable energy source in the country.
Wind Power in Sri Lanka
Development of wind power
Wind power in Sri Lanka began with the establishment of the first independent power producer in 2008. Initially, three 10-megawatt wind power plants were set up. While the development of wind power projects has not been as aggressive as mini-hydro or solar power, the sector has steadily grown over the years.
Capacity of wind power in Sri Lanka
As of 2023, privately-owned wind power projects contribute approximately 150 megawatts to the country’s overall renewable energy capacity. In addition to privately-owned projects, the Salon Electricity Board commissioned a large wind power project in Mana two years ago. This project has significantly boosted the total wind power capacity in Sri Lanka, which now ranges from 200 to 275 megawatts.
Salon Electricity Board’s wind power project
The wind power project commissioned by the Salon Electricity Board in Mana has helped strengthen Sri Lanka’s wind power industry. This large-scale project has added to the country’s renewable energy capacity and demonstrates the commitment of the government and relevant authorities to promote clean and sustainable energy sources.
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Other Forms of Renewable Energy in Sri Lanka
Biomass power plants in Sri Lanka
In addition to mini hydropower, solar power, and wind power, Sri Lanka also has biomass power plants. These plants generate electricity by burning wood and chips. Currently, there is around 50 megawatts of capacity in biomass power plants across the country. Biomass power generation further contributes to the overall renewable energy mix and helps diversify the sources of electricity generation.
Capacity of biomass power plants
The biomass power plants in Sri Lanka have a combined capacity of approximately 50 megawatts. These plants play a crucial role in utilizing the country’s biomass resources to generate clean and sustainable energy. The capacity of biomass power plants adds to the overall renewable energy capacity in Sri Lanka, contributing to a more balanced and environmentally friendly electricity generation sector.
Contribution of Renewable Energy to the National Grid
Percentage of renewable energy in national grid
Currently, renewable energy contributes around 14-15% of the total electricity supplied to the national grid in Sri Lanka. This includes the combined contributions from mini-hydro power, solar power, wind power, and biomass power plants. While renewable energy has made significant progress in Sri Lanka, there is still room for further growth and increased integration into the national grid.
Electricity mix for 2023
Looking ahead to 2023, Sri Lanka’s electricity mix is projected to evolve. Fossil fuels, including diesel and heavy fuel, are estimated to account for around 35% of the total energy requirement. Coal will contribute approximately 30%, large hydro around 22%, and renewable energy around 14-15%. The projected electricity mix reflects the country’s ongoing efforts to transition towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy sector.
Cost of generating electricity from renewable sources
Generating electricity from renewable sources, such as mini-hydro, solar, wind, and biomass, comes at a relatively low cost. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CB) currently pays an average price of 15-16 rupees per unit for renewable electricity. This cost is significantly lower compared to the expenses associated with importing fossil fuels, such as coal and diesel. The lower cost of generating electricity from renewable sources is not only environmentally beneficial but also economically advantageous for Sri Lanka.
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Impacts of Fossil Fuel Dependency
Negative impact on national economy
Sri Lanka’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels, particularly coal and diesel, has a negative impact on the national economy. The cost of importing these fuels puts a significant strain on the country’s finances. Additionally, fluctuations in global fuel prices can disrupt the stability of Sri Lanka’s energy sector and lead to increased electricity costs for consumers.
Reliance on coal and diesel imports
The reliance on coal and diesel imports exposes Sri Lanka to potential supply chain disruptions and price volatility. Importing large quantities of fossil fuels leaves the country vulnerable to geopolitical tensions and global market fluctuations. By reducing dependency on these imported fuels and increasing the share of renewable energy, Sri Lanka can enhance energy security and mitigate the economic risks associated with fossil fuel dependence.
Barriers to the Development of Renewable Energy
Inconsistent government policy
One of the main barriers to the development of renewable energy in Sri Lanka is inconsistent government policy. Frequent policy changes and uncertainty regarding regulations and incentives create challenges for investors and developers. A stable and supportive policy framework is necessary to attract investment and foster the growth of the renewable energy industry.
Lack of financial support and tax waivers
The lack of financial support and tax waivers for renewable energy projects hinders their development. Investors require adequate financial incentives, such as subsidies and low-interest loans, to make renewable energy projects economically viable. Furthermore, providing tax waivers can help offset the initial costs associated with establishing renewable energy infrastructure.
Non-timely payments by CB
Delayed or non-timely payments by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CB) to renewable energy project developers pose financial challenges. These payment delays impede the ability of developers to recover their investments and reinvest in new projects. Timely payments are crucial for maintaining a healthy and thriving renewable energy sector.
Lack of transparent and competitive bidding processes
A lack of transparent and competitive bidding processes for large-scale renewable energy projects can hinder the sector’s growth. A fair and open bidding system allows for increased competition, ensures the selection of the most suitable projects, and encourages private sector participation. Establishing transparent and competitive processes is essential for attracting quality investments and driving renewable energy development in Sri Lanka.
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Restructuring of the Ceylon Electricity Board
Restructuring the Ceylon Electricity Board (CB) is crucial for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the electricity generation and distribution system in Sri Lanka. Implementing modern technologies and upgrading infrastructure can result in reduced transmission losses and improved reliability of the grid. Efficiency improvements can help optimize electricity generation and minimize wastage.
Addressing losses within the electricity generation and distribution system is a priority for the restructuring of the Ceylon Electricity Board. These losses, both technical and non-technical, contribute to inefficiencies and increase the overall cost of electricity generation. Implementing measures to reduce losses, such as upgrading infrastructure, implementing smart grid technologies, and improving maintenance practices, can lead to a more efficient and cost-effective electricity system.
Attracting investment in transmission and distribution networks
Investment in the transmission and distribution networks is crucial to ensure the efficient and reliable delivery of electricity across the country. By attracting private sector investment in these networks, Sri Lanka can benefit from improved infrastructure, increased capacity, and enhanced grid stability. Encouraging private investment through transparent and competitive processes can help unlock the potential for growth in the renewable energy sector.
The renewable energy industry in Sri Lanka has come a long way since its early development in the 1940s. With the introduction of modern renewable energy sources like mini-hydro, solar, wind, and biomass, the country has made significant progress in diversifying its energy mix. However, there are still barriers to be overcome, such as inconsistent government policies, lack of financial support, and payment delays. Restructuring the Ceylon Electricity Board and improving efficiency is essential for optimizing the generation and distribution of electricity. By addressing these challenges and continuing to invest in renewable energy, Sri Lanka can achieve a more sustainable and resilient energy sector while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.