While the higher ranks within the government are setting ambitious targets in becoming self-sufficient in energy, it appears that the very definition of energy security has not yet been stipulated.
“There are various misconceptions. Though we have an agreement among us, ‘what is energy security?’ We need to find solutions for this, because according to the Act, the objective of the Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) is to come up with an energy secure Sri Lanka,” SLSEA Chairman Prasad Galhena said.
The expert asked whether it meant the development of indigenous sources, the right energy mix or generating for the lowest price.
Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka had last month said that Sri Lanka would be self-reliant in energy by 2020 with the right energy mix, which he has since revised the year to 2025 this week.
“We need to be independent and have energy autonomy so that we are not vulnerable to external shocks,” he said.
Key actions in his plan include the commercialization of the natural gas deposits in the Mannar Basin to substitute imported crude, increasing utilization of bio mass energy and renewable energy sources accounting for 100 percent of the country’s power by 2030.
MirrorBusiness inquired as to how this could be done, since almost all personal vehicles, heavy vehicles and industrial machinery run on petroleum, while new coal power plants are being constructed.
“Our aim is to have at least 10 percent of our public transportation being driven by electricity,” he quipped, and added that the plan is to have 1 million electric cars for personal transport, induced by a new off-peak tariff to charge them and relieve the load of the Norochcholai coal power plant.
However, statistics show that only 140 electric cars have been registered in the past 2 years.
Ranawaka said that the construction of the Sampur coal power plant and the Japanese-funded clean coal power plant are going ahead.
Sri Lanka imports all its coal and both plants are set to come online post-2018.
Ranawaka said that coal would remain the base of the country’s energy security with its cheap generation, and Sri Lanka would export excess power to India, in reply to Mirror Business asking whether the new power plants would be shut down prior to the return on their investment to fulfill his promise.
Officials within the Ministry too, offered contradictory remarks.
“After 15-20 years, we don’t know what the coal prices will be. How the world energy scenarios will change. Therefore these are open situations. We can’t predict for 20 years. But in the meantime for lower prices we have no option but to go for coal,” Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman S. Wijepala said.
Power and Energy Ministry Secretary Dr. Suren Batagoda said that Sri Lanka currently lacks the technology to effectively utilize biomass to power industries, and also added that crude cannot be substituted completely.
Meanwhile, Galhena said that SLSEA is currently in the process of developing an energy security index encompassing all factors to evaluate what Sri Lanka’s definition of energy security would be.(CW)