By Harshana Sellahewa
As the current non-renewable energy sources in Sri Lanka are costly and contribute to increased emission of greenhouse gases, it is high time for the country to focus on transitioning from conventional sources to renewable energy sources, according to Power, Energy and Business Development Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
He expressed his optimism towards the transition at the German Embassy, in Colombo, this week and said that although it is promising to push towards renewable and cleaner energy sources, a cost prohibitive factor still persists.
Karunanayake also expressed that another discerning factor holding back the transition is the lack of support from environmentalists, stating that a conflict of views also persists.
“It is indeed good news that the United Nations Development Programme and Asian Development Bank did a joint study and predicted that Sri Lanka could meet the current and future demands for electricity by judicial use of renewable energy by 2050,” Karunanayake remarked.
He said that the government intends to maximise on wind, solar, biogas, sea waves and hydro to generate energy, while noting that reliance on hydro seems to have reached a saturation point.
Meanwhile, Karunanayake also said that a 30 percent gap between the demand and supply of power has necessitated supplementary generation of power.
“We are the last people to add on emergency power. That word promotes a bad definition in Sri Lanka. But it has been such that it has been in tradition for the last 15 years to go through with this. We don’t want to have any power blackouts at all.”
Out of the total 4,092 MW electricity generation capacity of the country, almost 1,300 MW comes from hydro, 794 MW from renewables and the balance from burning fossil fuels such as diesel and coal.
“The general generating cost in marginal terms is roughly Rs.22 here and the selling rate is Rs.16. You can see that we have an enormous gap between the two, which ensures that we lose a very heavy component. A loss of Rs.70 billion is almost twice the amount we invest into social empowerment in this country. So, you could see that it is very encouraging for us to go towards renewable but it is
Reiterating that Sri Lanka and Germany share the same interest to mitigate climate change impacts, Karunanayake requested their support in this endeavour.
“The average cost of renewable energy here is roughly around Rs.23. If Germany can help us reduce that cost, we’ll make it 100 percent as soon as you help us. The problem is that thermal is, even though we don’t like it, falls in the range of Rs.13-14. We are looking at hydro, which is the cheapest but we have maximised that, so now we are moving towards the other areas. We are also looking at sea waves,” he added.