Sri Lanka’s Energy Security Pioneering towards Solar Energy

4 August 2017 12:54 am - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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During the pre-modern era, Sri Lankan energy requirements for heating, lighting and drying relied on plant based flammable substances. With the arrival of new technology in the mid-19th century, the range of energy sources expanded due to the importation of modern energy sources such as coal and petroleum products, which subsequently replaced the traditional fuels either partly or fully in different sub-sectors.   


The use of Petroleum products for thermal power generation has been significantly increased in past few years. Due to this reason hydroelectricity has decreased from 49% to 35%. This has reduced the capability of the state owned Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), to generate power at a lower cost. Consequently, the burden to the government, electricity intensive industries and the domestic consumers has been affected severely.   


Sri Lanka’s Current Energy Balance

The price of coal which is considered as low is also going up.” In 1990, unit of electricity produced with coal was 18 cents. In 2000, it became 90 cents. In 2010 it was Rs.6.00. In 2011 it has become Rs.10.71. Accordingly, by 2020 it will be around Rs.40 – 50.” As a result even if everyone is supplied by electricity in time, all of us should keep in mind that the era of cheap electricity is over.The probability of price increases of fossil fuels in the future mainly due declining resources and world 
environmental concerns.   

Some countries like America, France, Australia, China and even India are planning to power the entire country by solar Energy by 2035


The share of hydro-power is estimated to reduce from 40.2% in 2007 to 19.5% by 2020, while coal-fired thermal generation is estimated to reach 70.9% by 2020. A recent study done by Harvard University reports that the life-cycle effects of coal, and the waste steam generated, is costing every country in billions.   


coal, the most polluting way to generate electricity, is a serious threat to our climate. burning coal is the biggest single source of CO2 emissions from human activity. A study says “A typical coal plant with a once-through cooling system withdraws between 70 and 180 billion gallons of water per year”.  “Many researchers have found that coal manufacturing is one of the main reasons to global warming. global warming is a crucial fact.” There is a high tendency of banning coal manufacturing in the world. Most of the countries are working for it already.What will happen to us if coal manufacturing is eliminated entirely in next 5 years? There won’t be any use of those coal power stations. As we all know past few governments had invested billions on those coal power stations. Even after multiple breakdowns in our coal power stations the government still wasting millions for no reason. Are we in a position to bear the extra cost to generate electricity?Are we in a position to find a solution for this coal ban?   


leaning towards Coal as a long-term solution


Energy demand in Sri Lanka is mainly dependant on hydro-power so that electricity supply decreases severely when the country is hit by serious droughts. This has led to a dramatic decline in economic growth.” As we can remember, serious droughts in 1996 meant that Sri Lanka experienced a severe power crisis which adversely affected the Economy in 1996. According to a recent study Sri Lanka’s rainfall will decrease by 35% in 2030.” So the struggle is real. We can’t even fulfill the demand with enough of current rainfall. So what would happen if we lose it ? Not only that, it is predicted that island’s population will reach 25 mn in 2030. If we do not do something on this matter our country’s economy is at stake for sure.   

There is a high tendency of 2 hour power cuts during peak time in next few months


To achieve this Energy Crisis 


· Increase budget allocations for Research and Development (R&D) in renewable energy sources. It is well known our government’s budget allocation for R&D is less than 1%, while most of the developed countries allocate more than 10% on researches. Investing more on solar power is the world trend now.” Some countries like America, France, Australia, China and even India are planning to power the entire country by solar energy by 2035.” Developing economies almost matched developed economies in solar energy investments. So the role of solar energy in a country is becoming a vital fact in country’s economy. But we are still………….   


· Education and training in energy saving technique programs should start from school level. Energy security has to be a discipline in this country.


· Financial institutes should encourage their customers by providing easy repayment terms for solar panels and should fund more on solar energy projects.


Recently I got a chance to visit a newly built boutique hotel in Negombo. Since it is a multi-million project I asked the owner whether he is willing to install solar panels in his building.” He said that he needs to understand the energy consumption pattern over a period of time and then decide to go with solar panels or not.” Spending more money on renewables seems to be a waste for many Sri Lankans. Changing this attitude and encourage people to use solar energy is essential.   


Most of the construction projects are multi-million projects. So spending more on solar panels won’t be a crucial fact. I would like to suggest, based on the Value of the building, Function and the energy consumption, as a percentage generating electricity from solar panels is compulsory. In Sri Lanka, as per my knowledge we still use traditional solar panels which are very costly. solar technology is rapidly developing nowadays. Solar battery has become portable sized these days, which has a capacity of 15kWh for daily cycle applications. Recently a team of researchers developed a wall paint that can generate energy. So it is understood the world is moving fast with clean energy. We need more investors to acquire these technologies.   


The most recent situation


“As per the Minister of Power and Renewable Energy, he stated that there is a high tendency of 2 hour power cuts during peak time in next few months”. He also stated that we have only 36.4% water remain in reservoirs to generate electricity. As per the ministry, to distribute consistent power, the government has to spend at least LKR 50 billion. Not surprisingly that also for a lasting solution. So the struggle is real….   


Therefore, leaning towards solar Energy as a long term solution has to be 
initiated immediately.


The article is based on a Research paper done by the author.

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  Comments - 3

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  • Electrician Friday, 04 August 2017 09:16 AM

    The article does not discuss the engineering challenges associated with the power system stability and control when a large portion of its generation comes from un-dispatchable renewable energy power plants. Also the source of the quote "There is a high tendency of 2 hour power cuts during peak time in next few months" is not given. Clearly the author has little to no understanding about electrical engineering.

    Dinuka Jayasinghe Friday, 04 August 2017 02:02 PM

    Yes. Totally agreed with your statement. The whole idea of this article is to make people aware about our country’s Energy Security in near future. Since almost every developed country in the world move on to renewable, why can’t we do so? Yes there are so many engineering challenges associated with mass renewable power generation. Even Tesla is facing the same issue right now. But keep rely on Coal and hydroelectricity is not the only solution for this. We need to move on. We are in a huge energy crisis, even we cannot see it now. Almost 25% of our power generation done by IPP (Independent power producers). So the more they produce the more they earn. It’s that simple. So it is obvious fact that we have to rely on these conventional resources. Yes I do have little knowledge on Electrical Engineering. Am a Quantity Surveyor.-The Author of the article himself

    P.J.S.Fernando Friday, 04 August 2017 01:35 PM

    The author is correct on many things. A few standby power plants are necessary, like the Kelanitissa power plant we had for decades over a longer period in order to back up the peak requirements during a power crisis where un-dispatchable renewable energy will not be capable of doing during peak time. The fact is that, if we have an abundance of renewable energy like solar or wind, the excess energy during daytime can be used to pump water back to the reservoir of a hydroelectricity plant which is then stored to back up the peak power demand. Besides the normal peak demand, during a power crisis,the number of hydropower plants we already have in the country will be sufficient enough to back up the peak demand together with a few standby thermal power plants if an abundance of renewable energy is available by way of solar or wind in filling up the reservoires during daytime. Does'nt coal power plants become obsolete then?


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