BY Avanthi Jayasuriya
The energy sector of Sri Lanka is seen as an integral component of the country’s shift towards sustainable development, with more attention being focused on achieving growth targets at low emission levels through sustainable energy sources.
The nation’s agenda on shifting from using conventional energy sources such as coal and petroleum-based fuels to source the energy needs, towards more sustainable renewable energy sources has been underscored in the formulation of the National Policies and Strategies on Energy and Long-Term Generation Plan developed by the Ceylon Electricity Board.
Apart from the national-level policies and strategies related to the energy sector, the country has also made several international commitments, which predetermine the future development of the country’s energy sector.
In its nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) submitted to the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Sri Lanka has committed to a 20 percent GhG emission reduction targets under the energy sector with 4 percent of unconditional reduction and 16 percent conditional reduction. Therefore, it is understood that in order to meet the economy-wide escalating demand for electricity, which has an annual growth rate of 11 percent, the country needs to tap into its significant renewable energy potential.
Climate change and energy sector
The energy sector plays a key role in addressing climate change as it is one of the key sectors that contributes to the increase of CO2 and GHG emissions. In implementing mitigating targets for Sri Lanka, it is important that the energy sector moves from fossil-based energy sources to renewable energy sources.
Sri Lanka Climate Change Secretariat Director Dr. Sunimal Jayathunga underscored the importance of the energy sector in addressing climate change and emphasizes on the opportunities available for multi-stakeholders to engage in the implementation of NDCs of Sri Lanka.
Commenting on the NDC process in Sri Lanka, Dr. Jayathunga stated that it remains a crucial concern as to how the gaps in policies and regulations can be abridged in order to achieve the targets set in the NDCs.
“Fourteen committees have been formed including both government and private sector officials as well as academics and the readiness action plan was formulated for the years 2017-2019 in each sector. The next step is to identify the gaps and interventions needed to implement the NDCs of Sri Lanka,” he said.
Addressing gaps and policies for NDC implementation
Multiple policies and regulations relate to the different NDCs of 14 sectors in Sri Lanka. SLYCAN Trust Executive Director Vositha Wijenayake highlighted the need for addressing the gaps in policies and regulations, which relate to the implementation of the NDCs.
“There are many laws and policies that relate to the implementation of NDCs in Sri Lanka. It is important to identify the gaps that exist and address them to facilitate the implementation of these country commitments,” she said.
Some of the policies and regulations that relate to the NDCs of the energy sector are the Constitutional Framework on Energy, Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority Act No. 35 of 2007, National Energy Policy, Blue Green Development Strategy and Least Cost Generation Expansion Plan 2018-2037. Some of these have been passed after the ratification of the Paris Agreement by the Sri Lankan government and it is important that these policies and regulations are in line with the NDCs of Sri Lanka.
Regional cooperation for NDC implementation
While NDCs are country commitments, they open up avenues for regional cooperation. One such example could be deemed as the opportunity for technology transfer for the implementation of the NDCs at the regional level.
Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe) Assistant Director Rohit Malgotra elaborated on the energy sector opportunities that are available for regional cooperation.
“South Asia, which has a total installed capacity of around 3,73,900 MW, manifests a low per capita consumption rate of 517kWh per year. There are energy shortages in the region due to the increase in demand. As renewable energy resources are a solution for climate change in generating clean energy, cross-border electricity generation (CBET) can be considered an effective mechanism by which energy shortages within countries could be addressed,” he said.
The current CBET capacity of South Asia has been estimated to be 2313 MW with a huge future trading potential among the neighbouring countries.
He further pointed to the opportunities that the NDCs present for regional cooperation and expanding renewable energy generation in the South Asian region.
“South Asia is rich in renewable energy sources. We could address gaps in energy supply in the region by sharing experiences and technology of those countries that have already invested in renewable energy,” he added.
The Climate Change Secretariat of Sri Lanka in partnership with different stakeholders has discussed the way forward on the implementation of energy sector NDCs in Sri Lanka. These discussions identified several gaps that were highlighted as priorities to be addressed in the development of the energy sector. Among these, the strengthening of the institutional mechanism with improved coordination between line-ministries involved in the energy sector was seen as a crucial gap that needs to be addressed urgently.
On regional cooperation, it was recommended by the participants that regional cooperation for NDCs should be promoted with a focus on technology transfer, capacity building and mobilising finance for research and expansion of renewable energy generation in Sri Lanka.
The overall success of the gathering remained in its ability to achieve the purpose of the workshop in addressing ways to enhance renewable energy in Sri Lanka by identifying gaps in policies and regulations while accessing possibilities for regional cooperation using a multi-stakeholder audience.
(Avanthi Jayasuriya works as Programme and Communication Officer at SLYCAN Trust. She holds a degree specialising in English from the University of Colombo and is currently focused on her postgraduate studies in developmental economics. Her research interests include climate change, animal welfare, gender studies, economic development, transitional justice and peace studies)